And I said to my cat, I said: "Kitty, what if we did 'your' and 'you're'?"
And she was like,
And I had to admit that it didn't sound like a terribly substantial topic.
But then I thought, "Wait a minute - we DO know a Y-word that the world needs to understand! Quickly, kitten - to the Hickmobile!"
Thus, we have arrived at "y'all." Come! Let me teach you the pronoun of my people.
Beer Score: 2
First of all: "y'all" is a contraction of "you all", so the apostrophe goes after the Y. This is non-negotiable.
(There is no standard agreement on whether the possessive should be spelled "y'all's" or "y'alls", though. I'm afraid you will just have to shoot from the proverbial hip on that one.)
Secondly: "y'all" is a plural pronoun. This confuses many non-Southerners when they see it used to address one person. For example, let's say you are at home and go to answer a knock at your door. The person standing there may say,
In this case, he is referring not only to your own individual self, but also to other members of your household. The same is implied in phrases such as "How y'all doing?": the speaker is asking about you, and by extension, your family and friends.
You hear this same thing used for stores and businesses. When a customer says:
--she is talking about the whole store or company, as represented by the single employee.
This usage - namely, using "y'all" to refer to a set of multiple, possibly non-present people - means that "y'all" doesn't necessarily refer to everyone present. Fortunately, we have a term that does.
Here, the speaker wishes to include everyone within earshot, so all y'all is the term of choice.
You also hear "y'all" used as a term of respect, even when you are very-definitely talking about one person. If you see a lady trying without success to start her car, you might say, "Pardon me ma'am - do y'all need any help?"
(Sorry I don't have a cat snap for that one. "Respect" and "help" aren't really their strong points.)
You know how when a person is really high-up in the world (or thinks they are), they might refer to themselves using the "royal we"?
This lady-in-the-car scenario is like that, only reversed: YOU think highly of HER, so you refer to her using the "royal y'all."
Of course, given this little peculiarity, plus the plural-meaning/singular-addressee intricacies above, and the fact that Southerners don't exactly go to finishing school to learn the finer points of our bastard grammar, you do inevitably hear the rude, singular y'all.
Earl, y'all got two seconds to get out of my business 'fore I knock the dumb outta you.
Do not emulate this usage, gentle readers. Y'all is by its very construction a plural pronoun, and we ought to make at least a token effort to keep it that way.
"Uh, don't worry," you might say. "I think I'm just going to stick with 'you'. I mean, it works for one person and multiple people, so technically you don't even need 'y'all', really..."
From Y'All to Youse, Eight English Ways to Make 'You' Plural - with a handy map of usage!
Many thanks to today's GrammatiCats!
1. Shelter kitty! Courtesy of Dr. C
2. A boundary-challenged neighbor*, courtesy of Dr. C
3. Another inquisitive neighbor, courtesy of Dr. C
4. Bandi, courtesy of Frank the Magnificent
5. Mr. Miyagi, likewise!
6. Pete* and Pete, courtesy of my terrific sister
7. Shelter kitty! Courtesy of Dr. C
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