Southern Translation

Sherrie Sanders sherriesanders at
Wed Oct 14 20:57:15 EDT 1998


>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.

I am a real live GRIT (Girl Raised In The South), so I certainly agree with
you here! I watched a movie once (obviously written by those Northern kind
of folk, and they had the characters all using y'all as 2 person singular.
It just about drove me batty! Never in my life had I heard it used that way
until last week when I was greeting my students as they came to school. The
father of one little boy told me as he was leaving (I was the only one
around, mind you), "Y'all have a good day." I immediately thought how odd
that was and began to analyze whether he may have intended the comment to be
for only me, or for the staff in general. Hmmm....still I ponder....

>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?"

You're exactly right!

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

I hope the talkin' isn't too funny--my parents are about to move there and
I'd hate for Daddy to lose that South Carolina accent.

Allison (who eats grits, says "y'all", and can easily add syllables to

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