"Who-all" and "what-all"

Wilson Gray hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Fri Jul 30 02:40:46 UTC 2004

On Jul 29, 2004, at 12:12 PM, Jim Parish wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jim Parish <jparish at SIUE.EDU>
> 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.

In a version of hide-and-seek/hide-and-go-seek, "it" shouts, "Who-all
ain't hid, holler 'eyeball'!" Clearly, *all* the people who haven't
hidden are expected to respond to respond, as is obvious to anyone from
other versions, "Everybody ain't hid, say 'aye'!" and "All that ain't
hid, holler 'aye'!" These versions are from Cairo, IL; Saint Louis, MO;
and Marshall, TX, respectively, and all are versions played by black

-Wilson Gray

> 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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