"Who-all" and "what-all"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Thu Jul 29 17:00:33 UTC 2004

I second all your observations but No. 1.  I believe I use both terms on occasion, but don't know where I picked them up.  Surely in NYC as a child, but I don't know if they're typical of NYC speech.


Jim Parish <jparish at SIUE.EDU> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Jim Parish
Subject: "Who-all" and "what-all"

Recently I've been thinking about the words "what-all" and "who-all". I
find that I use them fairly often in speech and occasionally in writing,
but I don't recall hearing or seeing them particularly often. I just
conducted an informal and unscientific survey of some of my online
acquaintances, from various parts of the US, and I'd like to ask for
comments from ADS listmembers.

1) These words strike me as Southernisms. (I speak a North Midlands
dialect with a Southern tinge.) My informants seem to agree, although
several of them, like myself, speak non-Southern dialects. In most but
not all cases, they report a source of Southern influence.

2) Orthographically, my informants are evenly split on whether the
written forms should be hyphenated. (I admit to being a hyphenophile.)

3) Semantically, the "-all" acts as might be expected. In my speech,
"Who came to the party?" can be satisfied by the naming of a few
notables, while "Who-all came to the party?" is a request for a complete
roster. My informants agree, although one person who does not use
them, but hears them occasionally, suggests that the "-all" is often
semantically empty.

4) Syntactically, I use them in questions and negative statements,
rarely if ever in affirmatives. Most of my informants agree, although one
claims to be comfortable with them in at least some affirmative contexts.

5) I also asked about such forms as "where-all", "how-all", and "when-
all". All of these strike me as possible (the last marginally so), but I do
not use them. One of my informants reports using "where-all" and "how-
all" occasionally and "when-all" very seldom.

So. Does anyone on-list have any comments - or, better, solid data - on
these words? In particular, I'm interested in their distribution, both
geographically and socially.

Jim Parish

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