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]