Southern Translation

Christopher Hutson crhutson at
Wed Oct 14 18:06:30 EDT 1998

Jonathan wrote:

>I use this in Little Greek 101. However, it's important to be aware
>many Southerners use y'all as a 2nd person singular or plural form,
so I
>carefully state the distinction that I'm drawing.

I think that "y'all" as a 2nd person singular is a Yankee
misperception of traditional Southern speech.  When Southerners say
"y'all," they usually (always?) intend the plural force. That is, if I
ask, "How are y'all doin' today?" I am addressing a group.  If I say
it to you when we are the only two in the room, then I am asking about
your family.  

Likewise, if you visit a Southerner, it will be perfectly normal when
you depart to hear, "You come back, now, y'hear?" if you are visiting
by yourself, or "Y'all come back," if you are in a group.  OTOH, if
you visit alone, and hear, "Y'all come," then you are invited to bring
your family next time you visit.  Similarly, "Do y'all like
cucumbers?" means, "Will you and/or anybody at your house eat these if
I pick 'em for you right now?"

Or maybe that's just the way we talked in Tennessee and Alabama and
Texas.  Maybe in North Carolina, y'all talk funny.


Christopher R. Hutson
          Hood Theological Seminary
          Salisbury, NC  28144
crhutson at

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