Date: Mon, 24 Jan 1994 22:29:32 -0700


Subject: Re: y'all singular, not!

Bill, et al.:

The experience with Bill's Chair (and as a "Head", no "Chairs" being

hereabouts, I can affirm that even such august personages are not immune to

unique grammars or misspeakings), and his wife with staff (? or patients)

in the hospital o

and Beth's (I think) report of the coffee-server using y'all with evident

singularity (the occasion not permitting intrusion into their mental processes)

suggests, as I have been discussing with Don Lance, that there may be an

emerging pattern of evidence for a "polite" y'all usage, perhaps parallel

to caregiver use of we for you (sg.), and inversely parallel to the

polite use of myself now confounding GB grammarians. The service contexts

and the power differential perceived between Bill and his Chair suggest some

of the same impulses which produced you --- we and probably earlier

contributed to thou --- you . Since evidence in other cases makes it

clear that the "politeness" impulse can independently produce parallel results,

it should not be surprising that originally plural y'all (arising from the

standard British distributive "you all", which I have heard even from Prime

Ministers -- and remember, if the thou / you distinction had not broken down

there would never have been a need for a new plural in the first place)

was being used independently as a polite form. Remember, you heard it here


So far, though, I have not heard anyone arguing that we is not

REALLY first person plural because certain English speakers have been

discovered using it in direct reference to an addressee as second person