YOU ALL is not Y'ALL

J. Eulenberg eulenbrg at U.WASHINGTON.EDU
Mon Jan 26 19:54:05 UTC 2004

Okay, here is my take on this.  If you all don't mind.

When I say you all to a group (and I rarely do anymore, except in jest),
I am speaking collectively.  "Isn't it funny how you all say things," e.g.
The phrase is run together, and neither you nor all is given greater

When I say "I want you all to eat your dinner," I emphasize the "all."
As if to say "that means YOU" to each one of the three children sitting
there looking sullen.  And I might follow it up by saying "I mean it!"

If I were the newsman thanking "you all four," I'm sure I would emphasize
both the all and the four, almost as if they were set off by commas ("I
want to thank you, all four, for coming"), almost as if the "of you" had
been dropped -- "you, all four of you. . . .")  But I didn't hear the
broadcast, so I don't know what he actually did.

Julia Niebuhr Eulenberg <eulenbrg at>

On Mon, 26 Jan 2004 RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       RonButters at AOL.COM
> Subject:      YOU ALL is not Y'ALL
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> YOU ALL as an emphatic form of YOU is quite common outside the South. At=20
> least that is my intuition as a native speaker of Iowan. It is common to say=
> =20
> things like "I want you all to eat your spinach" or even "I want you all thr=
> ee to=20
> eat your spinach." Likewise, "I want to thank you all four for being here=20
> tonight." True, "I want you all to eat your spinach" is odd when addressed t=
> o two=20
> people, as is "I want you all two to eat your spinach"; but only because=20
> English normally requires BOTH in the dual; ALL means 'three or more'.=20
> If someone who regularly uses the phrase "I want to thank you all three for=20
> being here tonight" as the way of closing a broadcast interview, it would no=
> t=20
> be surprising for that person to say mistakenly, "I want to thank you all tw=
> o=20
> for being here tonight." But even if such a speaker idiosyncratically decide=
> s=20
> that "all two" is a satisfactory equivalent for "both" in this environment,=20=
> an=20
> explanation based on the normal acceptability of "all" followed by a number=20
> greater than "2"; this is such a plausible explanation, it seems to me, that=
>  any=20
> putative connection with Southern "y'all" seems to me highly unlikely.
> In a message dated 1/25/04 9:29:22 PM, stalker at MSU.EDU writes:
> > My email system is failing, or bailing.=A0 I did not get Matt's message, s=
> o=20
> > I'm
> > glad Beverly included it.=A0 The observation is interesting, but raises th=
> e
> > question of why it is his style.=A0 Given that "you all" is plural, why do=
> es=20
> > he
> > adopt the style of specifying the number of speakers? Is it also possible
> > that he is (hyper)correcting, knowing that "yall" is perceived as Southren
> > (not a typo), therefore he is hypercorrecting to "you all" from "yall"?
> >=20
> > Jim Stalker
> >=20

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