Date: Fri, 27 Sep 1996 06:20:52 -0500
From: Natalie Maynor maynor[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]RA.MSSTATE.EDU
Subject: Re: singular y'all
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
I don't know what the racial split is for the self-reportings of singular
"y'all" in Guy and Jan's data, but your story here reminds me of something
I was thinking about last night when I said I had never heard a singular
"y'all." I started to add something like "clearly" to what I said, but
then I decided that would be obvious anyway. Only one time have I ever
heard anything that was even a hint of a singular "y'all" -- and it might
have been a full-fledged one. I simply didn't hear it clearly. This was
relatively recently (during summer school, I think). I was walking to
class behind a black female student. Two older black women, wearing
some kind of custodial uniforms, were walking toward us. My mind was
somewhere else, probably on what I was going to do in the class I was
on my way to, and all of a sudden I woke up and said to myself, "Did
one of those older black women just say 'how y'all doing?' to the single
student?" I paused, thinking about turning around and catching up with
the women and asking them about it, but I was running late, had other
things on my mind, and went on. If in fact she did say "y'all," I don't
think in that context it would have been associative "y'all." As a
native speaker of Southern, I have a pretty good sense of the parameters
of that usage.
I'm wondering whether use of singular "y'all" might be starting in
African American speech. One problem with my example is that it was
one of the older (middle-aged) women who *possibly* said it that day.
If the usage is relatively new, I would expect to hear it from younger
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?
My turn-off-the-computer-by-6:30am rule is about to kick in, and this
posting is already too long anyway. Are you out there, Michael
Montgomery? I think Michael's article in the most recent(?) _SECOL
Review_ covers areas somewhat related to this.
--Natalie (maynor[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]ra.msstate.edu)