Coffee Spills

What I hear and see and think about at the coffee shops I patronize.
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Monday, February 21, 2005

Y'all is spreading north and west

Many of the regulars were missing at the coffee shop yesterday so I chatted briefly with Dave. After a few minutes I asked him if he were a native to this area, and he assured me he'd grown up in our city and had lived in this suburb since 1965. He sounded a bit southern, or maybe West Virginian to me, but maybe he just sounds Ah-hi-en and it's me that sounds funny, having grown up in "downstate" Illinois (i.e., not Chicago).

Apparently southern expressions are moving north. Y'all is creeping up on us'ns.

"Ever since English lost the second person singular "thou," it has relied on the pronoun "you" to act as both singular and plural. English speakers have improvised ways to avoid ambiguity in the plural: in the Northeast, "youse" or "youse guys"; around Pittsburgh "yunz" or "yinz," a contraction of "you-ones"; in the South, "y'all," a contraction — or "fusion" as Bailey and Tillery say — of "you-all"; and finally "you guys."

But "you guys" feels awkward to certain segments of the population, says Joan Houston Hall, chief editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English. A term that gained popularity in the 1960s, it still sounds inappropriately familiar to some elderly ears, she says, and some women are uncomfortable with the masculine gender implied by "guys." "Y'all" elegantly resolves all these concerns." Houston Chronicle story. Tip from Language Feed.


  • At 22 February, 2005 14:33, Blogger Paula said…

    I don't like "you guys," especially when used by waiters. I'm partial to people or folks, and of course my fave is PEEPS!

  • At 22 February, 2005 15:35, Blogger Norma said…

    I always look around for "lil bow" when I hear "peeps."

  • At 03 March, 2005 19:13, Blogger Susan said…

    I'm sure your friend Dave was Ah-hi-en. My parents are from "Ah hi-a" and lost their accents up in Michigan. However, I am amazed at how southern some of my Ashland/Richland/Morrow County relatives sound!


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