A new one on me y'all guys

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Oct 3 20:41:07 UTC 2012

On Oct 3, 2012, at 11:53 AM, Alice Faber wrote:

> On 10/3/12 11:47 AM, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
>> On Oct 3, 2012, at 8:04 AM, Alice Faber wrote:
>>> On 10/3/12 11:00 AM, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
>>>> On Oct 3, 2012, at 6:44 AM, Jon Lighter wrote:
>>>>> Never have I heard "y'all guys."
>>>> [AZ] following up on Alice Faber ... (with Alice saying it was new for her).
>>> [AF] I was so startled by it, it didn't even occur to me to google.
>>>> [AZ] it would in fact be astonishing if the variant didn't occur with some frequency, given the frequency of vernacular 2pl "you guys" (especially in vocatives) and the use of y'all for 2pl in the South etc.
>>> [AF] It "felt" like a token-for-token replacement for "youse" in "youse
>>> guys", but that's my NY area bias talking (misleading me?)
>> more neutrally: "y'all guys" plays the same role for some Southerners (etc.) as "youse guys" does for NYers (etc.) -- and as "yinz guys" does for Picksboigers.
> And that says something--I'm not sure what--about the lexical status of
> "guy" and "guys" as some kind of pro-forms.
One argument for the pro-formal (?) nature of "guy" is the existence of contexts in which singular "guy" (as opposed to the more easygoing plural) can be sex-neutral--just in case it serves as a kind of place-holder, more or less like "one". From my collection:

(1) —Your first mistake was telling him [= an abusive caller] your name.
      —Yeah, but there were only two of us on the phones, and they would have figured it was me because I’m a girl and the other guy is a guy.

(2)  from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (the 1992 movie):  Merrick (Donald Sutherland) tells Buffy (Kristy Swanson) that she is “The Chosen One” who must fulfill her vampire-killing destiny.  But she’s not really into her mission and it falls to Pike (Luke Perry) to remind her of her true calling.
            Pike:          But you’re the guy! The chosen guy!
            Buffy:       I am the chosen one, and I choose to go shopping.

(3)  I like sex just as much as the next guy.
 —Kate Austen on “Chicago Hope”


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