Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Plural You

This post is partly in response to, but more inspire by, this post by Natasha. Thanks for a good laugh. At least, I think your post was meant to be humorous.

I've always appreciate that most other languages seem to have a plural you (e.g, tu vs. vous), and just figure that Southerners have improved English to include one. My wife believes that Southerners use y'all as a singular (like talking to just one person, they'd still say y'all for you), but I told her only really ignorant ones do. All y'all is simply a more inclusive plural you, like in this example:
"All y'all can come on over." followed or preceded by a gesture to a large group. Looking at just a small group within a large one and saying, "And y'all're welcome to invite some more folks to come, too. We got plenty o' fixin's." would distinguish between the smaller y'all and the larger y'all.

See how much clearer that sentence is without the ambiguous "you" to refer so non-specifically to one person, several, or a lot? And for the record, y'all isn't even improper English - it is a contraction of "you" and "all". It's not like "ain't" for "isn't" or "aren't". It is the way someone should contract those words. Ah, the beauty of the English language. So bizarre, and so flexible.

Y'all come back now, ya here! Tomorrow's post is about semantics.

-- Robert

6 comments:

Natasha said...

Yes, it was meant to be funny.

Y'all. Now that's something I say very rarely.

Semantics! Whee! I can't wait! (And no, I'm not being sarcastic.)

Robert said...

Hope you like it. It's already written, just waiting to post it for tomorrow. Thanks again for the inspiration.

le35 said...

I can't believe that you made a whole blog post about ya'll, and I sort of do take that part about me in it personally. I'm working on shrugging it off though

Robert said...

Yeah, it was kind of fun, really. I didn't mean to offend you (or anyone else) by including your thoughts on y'all in the post. My sincere apologies.

Anonymous said...

"tu" is the informal "you" in French for family or close friends. and "vous" is the formal you. I suppose either can be used in a singular or plural context.

Also, the only people I've ever known to use "y'all" for a single person are writers in Hollywood who are just making fun of southerners. Anyone who grows up in the South knows that y'all always refers to more than one person.

Robert said...

Tu is the informal "you" but also the singular. "Vous" is the formal "you" but also the plural. The usage of "vous" as both singular and plural is almost certainly the basis for "you" being used that way in English, since about half of English is derived from French (thanks to long-term occupation of England by the French).

I truly wish you were right, that only Hollywood writers did that, but I've seen people use "y'all" when clearly talking just to one person. But yes, it is extremely rare. Thank goodness.

Thanks for stopping by, anonymous.