I have previously posted about the use and abuse of y’all, and I thought I’d mention that there’s a vigorous discussion going on at MetaFilter about the fact that “The use of ‘y’all’ is slowly but steadily gaining acceptance in standard English far outside…’the South’.” There are a few idiots and bigots, but in general I’m pleased with the standard of discourse, which has risen noticeably (on language-related topics) in the three or four years I’ve been following the site.


  1. Mefites like to bitch about how it’s all going to hell, but really, I remember poetry discussions so terrible they made my skin crawl.

  2. I liked the “people-who-say-ya’ll-are-idiots” guy. As someone who says ya’ll all the dag-burned time, it entertains me to no end to see someone lay out their ignorance so overtly.

  3. I’ve never lived in the south, but I use y’all all the time. I’m not sure why. Most of my life has been spent in military bases in the east, west, and far east, so I don’t think my accent is particular to one place. I also use ya guys.
    Hmm. I should start taking note of the situations where I use y’all and where I use ya guys.. because I think there is a difference, depending on the situation.

  4. I’ve only ever lived in the US for three months — and that was in NY state — and even _I_ use “y’all” all the time. It’s so incredibly useful.

  5. I’m pleased with the standard of discourse, which has risen noticeably (on language-related topics) in the three or four years I’ve been following the site.

    I believe strongly that this turn of events can firmly be attributed to our host. Yay languagehat!

    (And this is writing as someone who disagrees often with the “prescriptivism is bad, mmkay?” mantra. 🙂

  6. audiofage says

    and what about “y’ins” and my favorite “y’ins all”? speaking of pittsburghese… does anyone else use the term (i’ve never seen it written, so this is just how it sounds) “red up” for “tidy”?

  7. audiofage says

    and what about “y’ins” and my favorite “y’ins all”? speaking of pittsburghese… does anyone else use the term (i’ve never seen it written, so this is just how it sounds) “red up” for “tidy”?

  8. speedwell says

    “Redd up” is Scots. My mom used to use this and a few other Scots expressions that she picked up from a Weber and a MacKenzie who helped bring her up. I picked them up too without realizing where they came from until I looked some “Momisms” up in the dictionary.
    She was also from Pittsburgh, but I never ever heard her use “y’ins” (is that a hyperconstricted “you-uns?”).
    I moved directly from New Jersey to Georgia when I was fourteen, so I also mix “you guys” and “y’all.” From what I’ve observed, I use “you” in formal situations, “you guys” informally if I’m speaking to anyone my ear tells me is a non-Southerner, and “y’all” informally at work here in Houston and to anyone who sounds likely to use it back to me.

  9. Let’s face it – it’s really nice to have a second person plural pronoun that’s not identical to its singular. I like using “y’all”, but the misspelling “ya’ll” makes me as angry as people who confuse “its” and “it’s”.
    I also like “fixin’ to” for future active participles.

  10. speedwell says

    After reading the MetaFilter thread, I have a couple more things to say:
    My own personal accent is a crisp, neutral, uninteresting average of the accent of several places I’ve lived in, the several places Mom lived in, and the studied way Dad taught himself to speak clear engineering English (his native language is Hungarian, and when he isn’t thinking about it, he has a heavy accent). I am so mixed up I cannot consciously imitate accents, but strangely enough, if I spend time talking with a group of people with a (shared) pronounced accent, I wind up talking like them for the rest of the day.
    A fellow I dated who had just finished a stint as an Air Force linguist used to tell me, “You have no accent.”
    So, I don’t drawl. When I use “y’all,” I tend to snap it out. It rhymes with “doll.”
    As for singular “they,” I have just almost singlehandedly made the usage standard for official documentation at the huge company I work for. It just makes sense to everyone.

  11. Pittsburgh natives are known as yinzers.

  12. “y’all” or the alternative “you’s” are very useful to explain to native speakers of English that there are languages where the plural 2nd is different from the singular 2nd.

  13. I guess what got me most about the post was that the title was descriptively flavored. I don’t remember who posted it, but it just made me happy.
    On the other hand, I have to wonder about saying “You have no accent.” What exactly does that mean? Aren’t accents relative, or is this used in terms of some sort of “standard” manner of speech? I tend to think of the term accent as used sometimes as a non-technical word for dialect, or as something used to talk about the speech of those speaking in a second (or third or what have you) language.
    People have told me I have no Minnesotan accent for sure, but to say that I have no accent, well… What’s that imply? Certainly I’m not dialectless.

  14. They probably mean you sound like a newscaster.

  15. Speaking of old Momisms that turn out to be Scots — my mother-in-law, whose mother came over from Orkney, had a lot of them. But she often used to call people “fer-RIKT,” meaning “crazy.” I’ve never heard any other Oregon native use the word. What puzzles me is that, far from sounding Scots to me, it sounds German or Yiddish — like a version of “verrueckt.” Anyone know where this may have come from?

  16. Dale – I’d say there is little room for doubt there. “Fer-rikt” is almost undoubtedly a form of the German “verruckt”, which mean crazy, especially in the sense of “wacky”. 🙂 I grew up in Cincinnati, which is heavily German, and my Grandfather was very fond of this word.

  17. Thanks Krista! I wonder if that’s a clue to the (very deliberately obscure) origins of the other side of that family? Nobody knows anything about where said mother-in-law’s father came from — but we do know that he invented the name he went by. “But,” my mother-in-law said once, out of the blue, when she was very old, “he had nothing to do with that train robbery!”
    I’m wondering if a little reseach might turn up an uncaught train-robber (maybe from Cincinatti!) by the name of Schmidt or Meyer 🙂

  18. When I was growing up in north-central West Virginia, we had two variations on ‘you-all’ (as we pronounced it) that I haven’t heard elsewhere. One was the possessive form ‘your-all’s.’ The other was the related term ‘what-all,’ as in ‘What-all did you do yesterday?’ or ‘What-all do they sell in that store?’ It basically means that you’re asking for a detailed response.
    Has anyone else heard these?

  19. I’ve heard the latter frequently (and even used it); I’m not sure if I’ve encountered “your-all’s,” but if so it would have been in writing, perhaps in the course of a discussion such as this.

  20. I grew up in Pittsburgh, and I said “yinz,” usually in the phrase “yinz guys.” It was actually pronounced about halfway between “yinz” and “yunz,” and I think I’ve seen it spelled “younz”.

  21. Oh, and I occasionally now use “y’all” or “you all” for you plural simply because of it’s usefulness.

  22. My grandmother, born in 1878 in Allen County, Ohio (near Lima, pronounce Lye-muh and Cairo, pronounced care-oh), used “red up”(“read[y] up”?). Her last name was Hood and her mother’s maiden name was Hitchcock.

  23. Redd up sound like “redd opp” which means clean, mostly about your bed, in Norwegian. So it makes sense it is Scottish.

  24. If one opens his or her mouth and speaks he or she has some sort of accent. The only ones who speak without an accent are dead or mute.

  25. Oh–I forgot–the dead don’t speak. At least I hope not.

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