Date: Fri, 27 Sep 1996 05:29:27 EDT
From: "David A. Johns" daj000[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]FOX.WAY.PEACHNET.EDU
Subject: Re: singular y'all
At 08:15 PM 9/26/96 -0500, you wrote:
53 years in the South, most of them in the Real South, and
no encounter yet with singular "y'all"
In the three years I've been in Southeast Georgia, I've been listening very
carefully for examples of singular "y'all". I've heard lots of "you and
yours" tokens, and a handful that seemed like changes of focus within the
sentence. But see if y'all can interpret this one for me.
When I walked into class one day two students were talking across
the room (i.e., so that everyone else could listen in) about how
miserable it was working at Wal-Mart during the Christmas
shopping season. The conversation drifted from demanding
customers to unruly children to forced overtime. At that point a
third student chimed in, saying, "Yeah, I was supposed to get off at
10 last night, but they kept me until after 12." One of the first students
turned to this one and said, "Oh, y'all work at Wal-Mart too?"
Now the first two students happened to be black and the third one white, so
my instantaneous interpretation of the question was "Oh, you mean white
people work at Wal-Mart too?" -- i.e., a "you and yours" token. But that
question would be silly to anyone who had been in the store, as these
students of course had, and I could detect no sarcasm in the question (in
fact, sarcasm seems to be very rare in this culture). So why the "y'all"?
By the way, I had plenty of "text" from this student, and never heard
another example of this usage from her.
One variation on the "you and yours" usage that I've started noticing
recently seems to involve avoiding the impression of over-intimacy. I've
heard it mainly from men addressing women they don't know, as in "how y'all
doin' today" from a male book salesman to a female secretary, where the same
salesman has addressed another male with "how ya doin' today." My social
sense tells me that the salesman is trying to avoid the appearance of coming
on to the secretary, though of course I have no socially acceptable way of
confirming that judgment, and I don't see many instances, since if the
salesman is aware of my presence, the "y'all" becomes natural. Can anyone
comment on this one?