Singular "yez"?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Mon Dec 13 01:00:44 UTC 2004

For the record, and to rescue my reputation: I noted the usage at the time and mentioned it in a seminar paper I wrote the following semester. Maybe I should have published, but I was pursuing other interests at the time and doubted that I had anything to add to the work of Cassidy, Hall, and others.

So, in this case, we don't need no steenking tape recorder.

There is an error in my post, however. The exact words were "Y'all are from Louisiana?"  So "are" did not interfere or disappear.  Moreover, I was taking part in this conversation myself. Had I sensed its scandalous import, I would have quizzed the two young ladies and gotten affidavits.

One of our professors at that time, a Texan, took such umbrage at the idea of a singular "y'all"  that he determined to pay very close attention - for two weeks, perhaps - to see if he could detect its existence.  Within a few days he admitted that he actually used it himself in the phrases "See y'all later" and "Whatch'all doin'?"  And he was absolutely sure he wasn't thinking of any relatives or the like. These, for him, were frozen idioms, plural in origin but singular in use.

Now tell me, where is the threat - and to what - in reputable evidence that some Southerners, on some occasions imperfectly described by linguists, use a "y'all" that is singular in context, no matter what they *might* be thinking about a  possibly imaginary cast of invisible characters ?    I don't claim that a singular "y'all" is used routinely by all Southerners or recommending its adoption.  If that's the issue.


RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: RonButters at AOL.COM
Subject: =?ISO-8859-1?Q?Re:=20=A0=20=A0=20=A0=20Re:=20Singular=20"yez"=3F?

This has been discussed many times here, as I recall. Check the archives.=20
Also, there has been a great deal published on this in the past 30 years in=20
AMERICAN SPEECH. There is a lot of disagreement about whether or not it is a=
genuine Southern phenomenon or just something that Yankees make up when they=
South. Guy Bailey did telephone interviews with people in Oklahoma and some=20=
them said they used "y'all" in the singular. There has been debate about the=
reliability of those results.

The sort of example that Bethany gives is often explained (or explained away=
given your perspective) as meaning 'You [and your friends and family] come=20

One wonders how trustworthy JL's example is. Is this something that he has=20
taperecorded evidence for? Or did someone mistake "You're" for "Y'all"?

In addition, people do make mistakes. One can find examples of instances=20
where people say "he" when they mean "she," and vice versa. This does not me=
that "he" means 'she' (or vice versa).

I am myself dubious of the viability of singular "y'all." Certainly, the=20
number of verifiable, convincing examples is miniscule.

In a message dated 12/11/04 11:26:05 PM, wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM writes:

> Conversation between two college wymyn, newly arrived at a dorm, 1976:
> "Where are you from?"
> "Baton Rouge."
> "Y'all from Louisiana???=A0 Well, so am I ! !"
> JL
> "Bethany K. Dumas" wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header=20
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: "Bethany K. Dumas"
> Subject: Re: Singular "yez"?
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------=
> --
> On Fri, 10 Dec 2004, Wilson Gray wrote:
> >Can someone supply some examples in which a genuine Southern-speaker or
> >a BE speaker uses "y'all"/"you-all" as a singular? I've heard and read
> >since the '40's, at least that, y'all/you-all can be used as a
> >second-person singular. I have never heard such a use from any white
> >Southerners or from any black person. But I'm willing to grant that
> >that could be mere happenstance.
> I have heard it and know others who have heard it in the Knoxville, TN
> area. One example is from a medical office - receptionist says to
> patient, "y'all come back."
> Bethany

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