Date: Sat, 21 Jan 1995 22:06:00 EDT
From: "David A. Johns" DJOHNS[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UFPINE.BITNET
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
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
modified noun (CONNECTICUT YANKEE, ROCK-RIBBED YANKEE), but never HE'S
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?