Footnote to the "You All" Controversy

Subject: Footnote to the "You All" Controversy
From: George Hayhoe <GFHayhoe -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 19 Dec 1995 10:12:39 -0500

Precise use of language is important, especially in technical communication.
You've got to know the historical and geographical dimensions of language to
understand and use it well.

That said, I'd like to comment on Karen Mayer's assertion that "you all" is
not found as two distinct words in the South. What she says is true of the
deep South, but not of the border South.

I grew up in Washington, DC in the 50s and 60s; both of my parents were born
and raised there, and one of my grandparents was as well. Particularly before
the 60s (when the Beltway somehow strangled the sense out of the place, I
think), Washington was very much a Southern city, and a
distinctly-pronounced-as-two-words "you all" was commonly heard there. I
can't attest to current usage, but "you all" was as commonly heard in the DC
of my youth as "yous" was in Philly or "youse" in Brooklyn.

Whether pronounced "you all" or "y'all," however, the word was formerly a
plural and was almost never used as a singular by native speakers of Southern
English. I suspect that the increasingly common singular usage may result
from the migration of Rustbelt natives to the Sunbelt in the past two

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