Date: Fri, 27 Sep 1996 10:13:37 -0500


Subject: Re: singular y'all -Reply

David A. Johns daj000[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]FOX.WAY.PEACHNET.EDU 0927.0429

At 08:15 PM 9/26/96 -0500, you wrote:


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?

I wonder...

Of course this is reminiscent of the development of the second person in

Latin- Romance, from the Classical Latin system (singular vs. plural with

no dimension of intimacy) to systems in which intimacy vs. formality

interacts with number in varying ways. (The dialectal variations in

Spanish alone are bewildering!) And in English, and in German...

I have seen this development in Latin attributed (sorry, no citation

available) to the use of the plural "vos" to officials in their capacity as

representatives of the State, which then allegedly spread from official

situations to meeting the same people unofficially. I don't know how

reliable that is. But I wonder if this situation that you report (and partially

infer), or something comparable, could have also been a component. I've

always felt the "official plural" [so to nickname it] explanation to be rather


Mark A. Mandel : mark[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

Dragon Systems, Inc. : speech recognition : +1 617 965-5200

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