Date: Sat, 21 Jan 1995 22:06:00 EDT


Subject: 2 pl, "Yankee"

Bill Cole says:

# No native Southerner would use "you guys" unless his/her parents

# were unreconstructed Yankees.

From my experience in South Georgia, I'd agree with respect to

unselfconscious speakers. But the situation seems a little more

complicated among educated Southerners.

Among the oldest layer of educated Southerners, from about 55 up, it

seems that Y'ALL was stigmatized during their formative years. The

older faculty members here never use it at all, in any form, at least

in public.

Faculty members in their 40s and early 50s loosen up a little -- I

seldom year Y'ALL from them, but fairly often YOU-ALL, stressed on the

first syllable, and sometimes YOU GUYS. I'm sure the latter is an

importation, but it seems to grow out of discomfort with Y'ALL.

Educated Southerners under 40 generally use Y'ALL freely, in the same

patterns as uneducated folks. But I also occasionally hear YOU GUYS

from people in their 20s, and it makes me wonder whether Y'ALL and YOU

GUYS have a slightly different range of possible referents.

What makes me think this is that I've noticed an interesting ambiguity

in Y'ALL as it is used hereabouts. Y'ALL so often means "you and a

group you belong to" or even "you as a representative of the

organization for which you work" that this meaning can impinge upon

the normal "those who I am speaking to right now" meaning. For

example, I said something like "when are y'all leaving" to a couple of

student assistants in our tutoring lab, and they asked me whether I

meant them or when was the lab closing. In my experience YOU GUYS

never meant "your organization", so that I would never ask a store

clerk "Do you guys have long underwear", a common slot for Y'ALL. So

I wonder if YOU GUYS might be creeping into Y'ALL territory as a way

of disambiguating "you and you" from "you and them".

Another interesting use of Y'ALL/YOU ALL: One day I said to my class

something like "If y'all want an assignment for extra credit ..." and

one of my students said, "Don't you 'you-all' me, I've got plenty to

do already." Apparently "Don't 'you-all' me" meant "Don't include me

in your y'all." I have no idea whether the pronunciation "you-all"

was significant, but this was about a 30-year-old woman who has lived

on a farm all her life and shows no pretensions in her normal speech.

A comment on YOU GUYS: I grew up in Dalton (Berkshire County)

Massachusetts. Apparently when I was a teenager in the 50s YOU GUYS

could not refer to females, because one of my first linguistic shocks

when I went off to college in 1959 was hearing my peers address groups

of girls with that term. I thought it was hilarious. I don't know

whether this means that YOU GUYS was just getting grammaticalized at

that time or I had grown up in an area isolated enough not to have

encountered it yet.

Ah yes, and a question about YANKEE.

We all know that to foreigners a yankee is an American, to Southerners

it's a Northerner, and to Northerners it's some sort of old-fashioned

New Englander. But there are some differences in usage: for instance,

YANK is only used in the "American from a foreign point of view"

meaning; the Southerner's YANKEE is never shortened. What I'm curious

about, though, is whether anyone else would agree with me that in its

"New Englander" meaning it is never used as a stand-alone noun. It

can be an adjective (YANKEE TRADER, YANKEE INGENUITY, etc.) or a


A REAL YANKEE or anything like that. Also, in my perception a

Connecticut Yankee is a type of Connecticuter (?), whereas to a

Southerner it would be a type of Yankee, no? Does anyone else have

these limitations on YANKEE?

David Johns

Waycross College

Waycross, GA