Date: Sat, 21 Oct 1995 16:12:40 +0600
From: Jim McCulloch mcculloch[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU
Subject: Re: y'all, singular usage?
I am a native speaker of a y'all dialect, and I have to say I have never
encountered a southerner, ever, who used a singular y'all, formal or
otherwise. My reaction to this policeman would be to think he was
hallucinating extra people in the car.
Now if he were the local constable, and he knew me and my family well, and
said to me "how y'all doin?" I would know he meant "How are you and your
family doing?" But that's plural, isn't it?
From my travels and experience, it would seem the difference between
"y'all" and "you" is informal vs. formal, an invitation or request vs. a
direct order. "Would you step out of the car, please" is a direct order;
if the officer used "y'all" in this situation, the driver in question would
take his sweet time getting out of the car, if indeed he bothered to at all.