Youse, Y'All, and Other Confusions of Modern English

142 Comments

Galway, Ireland

Liz fidgeted, then leaned forward, eyes wide-open, “But the worst—the worst—is that I find myself saying things like ‘how are you guys doing?’. ‘You guys’! It makes me sick to my stomach.”

My roommate on Claddaugh Key was Irish down to her last Guinness-drinking bone.

Alas, sitting along the harbor among the swan flocks in Galway, she was still shaking off the after-effects of a year of study in the US. More than the big cars and big people, it had been the word “guys” that drove her nuts, and now she couldn’t stop it from rolling off her tongue. She had become a counterfeit Yank.

“So what do you say then?”
“You lads.”
“Oh, that’s much better.”

Beauty may be in the ear of the listener, but “you” in the plural (second person plural for you linguists) just ain’t as simple as it should be in English, particularly in the US. That is, except in the South.

“You all” or, more commonly, “y’all” is neat, clean, and logical. It is similar to Japanese, in which you simply tag a plural indicator after “you” (anata) to make it y’all (anata-tachi), just as “I” (watashi) becomes “we” (watashi-tachi). Chinese is the same (ni –> ni-men, wo –> wo-men). Once again, it’s the Nor-Easters who are setting the standards and causing problems. If you’re north of the Mason-Dixon, “y’all” just doesn’t work.

Grammar books brilliantly solve this problem by ignoring it: “you” is both singular and plural in English, plain and simple. If only it were that simple! Gotta love those academics.

What about just adding an “s” and calling it a day?

At least formally, Spanish-speakers worldwide can agree that usted becomes ustedes—end of story. Unfortunately, outside of the poetic vernacular of the Sopranos, “youse” remains an outcast. Even with the support of colloquial Kiwis, I doubt “youse” is a serious contender for replacing “you guys”, and “youse guys” is a bastard child we should keep locked under the stairs.

Maybe it’s time for us to return to our roots and learn a thing or two. After all, German is basically Old English with a funny accent, right? This is surprisingly true, but the retrofit doesn’t quite work; they have Du (informal) and Sie (formal) for “you” but a separate word entirely for “y’all”: Ihr. Alas, the perfect solution “ye” of “Hear ye!, Hear ye!” fell out of fashion in English a few hundred years ago.

What is a Yank to do? I propose imitating the Indonesians. That’s right. Talking to your girlfriends in Jakarta, it’s as easy as making ibu (you) ibu-ibu (y’all). Hanging with the fellas in Bali? Bapak becomes bapak-bapak. So, “how are you guys?” evolves into the elegant “how are you-you?”

[Postscript: Some commenters have noted that "anda" could and perhaps should be used in place of the above pronouns in Indonesian]

Much to the chagrin of my Irish roommate, “you guys” seems to be gaining momentum, not losing it. The Brits and Canucks are of no help here. Based on my extensive studies (sample size of two), both countries are already infected with usage of “you guys”.

You can only watch so much Baywatch and Simpsons before throwing in the towel, I suppose.

Posted on: April 16, 2008.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

142 comments on “Youse, Y'All, and Other Confusions of Modern English

  1. I’m going to help you make your research a little more scientific: I’m a Canadian and I use You Guys – now your sample size is 3!

    I have to agree with your Irish friend, although I use you guys there is something that grates when I use it. Its as if somewhere in the back of my mind there is an old English professor cringing at it’s use. I’ve travelled a bit in the US and I have to say that Y’all is a serviceable solution but the next time you’re in Texas as someone what the plural of Y’all is and the magical All’Y’All (and I know the spelling is off) will be heard. At this point I give up understanding and ask for translations.

    Another interesting study/word oddity is Pop or Soda that changes its meaning depending on where you are in the US.

    Like

  2. Hate to break it to you, Tim, but “y’all” is singular. “All y’all” is plural. At least that’s what my friends from southern Kentucky tell me.

    Like

    • I suspect your friends from kentucky are lying. I’m from the northeast but spent several years in the military (where 90% of people around me were from the south), as well as spending time in various southern states and Texas. And I hear southerners speak frequently on TV.

      The only times I have EVER heard “y’all” used to address one person was when northerners were imitating southerners.

      Like

  3. She thinks she’s got problems, I moved here from the UK two years ago and I’m already saying toe-made-o, calling my mobile a cell phone and thinking it’s ok to drive through red lights whilst chatting on said cell phone and having a shave. I will never ever give up the phrase taking the piss though because it’s the finest the English language has to offer and there just is no US equivalent worth it’s salt. If anybody tells you there is, they’re taking the piss.

    Like

    • “Just messing with you” and “Just Joshing you” as well as “Just kidding you” are all American versions, but I agree “Taking the piss” is better.

      Like

  4. I’ve got another one. When I was in the Navy I had some friends from Missouri and a couple of them said “You’uns” (I’m sure I borked the spelling) which I think was good for single “you” and plural “you” but mostly plural.

    Like

  5. Our embrace of ‘youse’ is just one of many examples of Kiwi efficiency and innovation*. Good work Tim, nice to see you’re paying attention.

    Simon
    (Colloquial)

    * Which include the pavlova, golden kiwifruit and extraditing Russell Crowe to Australia. There are probably others too.

    Like

  6. Damn you ferris, I was working on the same post and you dang gone and beata’ me to it.

    Down here in Oz, I was busy commending the ‘westies’ (who speak their own brand of English) because they had naturally adapted the language the same way that the Spanish had, inventing a word where none existed in English.

    The same is the case for the dime, or digame (formal) in Spanish for the words “Tell me. Starting and finishing a sentence with ‘Tell me’ makes so much more dignified, and makes sense that we’re missing that word.

    “Tellme (digame), what do you think about The Simpsons?” and “The time, tellme please?”

    But I have two more interesting things to add. The Aboriginal’s plural of a word is by repeating it, just like Indonesia. So my hometown Wagga Wagga means place of many crows.

    The second point of interest is more of an interjection. Hopefully I will be lucky enough to cut the ebb by getting an early comment in, I will deny anybody the ability to be wrong be saying ‘But the Eskimo’s have 255 words for white, language is a matter of culture, and we shouldn’t be so critical. Surely lolcats is just as right as Ze Germans’.

    When we started talking with Eskimos, we misinterpreted the gap in between their words, they were saying white-snow, hard-show, yellow-snow. There was very limited words for snow, they were just using adjectives.

    Also, the point of Lolcats is that it is bad English. If it were to become the norm by some sense of irony, in the same way that sms and IM speak has become popular in spoken English (among the under12’s and manga fans).

    Worst case scenario, it will become jargon or slang. Best case scenario it will be a phase. I’d prefer repeating a word for plural or you’se guys, which is people filling a hole that exists in a language than ROTFL. Rather than pop-culture continually recycling itself like an Andy Warhol exhibition, it shows an intelligent choice, creativeness and willingness to grow and adapt.

    Signing off. Y’all come back later Y’hear!

    Like

  7. I’m originally from NY and have lived in the south for several years. I can attest that “you guys” is the tell that tips my hand everytime. I use y’all and the truly plural (when speaking to large groups) “all y’all,” but “you guys” always slips into the vernacular. I would also point out the word “wicked” as a term for “cool” doesn’t work in the south.

    Like

  8. How about instead of “How are you guys doing?” you use “How is everyone/everybody?”

    Something you hear in South Central Pennsylvania is “a while”. A waitress may say “Can I get your drinks a while.”

    Like

  9. Go with “y’all.” Anyone who resists is just standing in the way of logical, common-sense progress. The Grammar Girl podcast had a wonderful episode in which Mignon (not from the south) extolled the linguistic virtues of “y’all.”

    As for Ken’s comment about “wicked” not being acceptable as a term for “cool” in the south, I’ve got to disagree.

    Like

  10. Oh dear, I better stay in Dixie, then – “y’all” and “all y’all” are truly useful words. Fifteen years ago we used them when conjugating verbs in highschool Latin – and that teacher also taught German!

    And Matt – down here you may be offered coke and Coke (aka Co’cola, ) and Pepsi. Non-capital coke is some other, unspecified brand of carbonated-twelve-teaspoons-of-sugar brown beverage that isn’t root beer. Although I’ve lived here most-all my life, I have no idea how to ask for a coke that isn’t Co’Cola or Pepsi. You’re really better off with iced tea…but it WILL be sweet.

    It may be interesting to consider the American South as yet another warm-weather British variant. Bill Bryson makes an interesting argument as to the source of our drawl, we drink tea more than any other beverage, scones=cathead biscuits, and I find Britspeak much easier to pick up than ‘you guys’ or ‘pop’ or…I can’t think of another Yankeeism.

    Also bear in mind that the South is not at all monolithic (another Brit similarity) – I live and speak Lower Alabam, but the Atlantan accent is entirely different, Charleston’s is lovely and genteel, the patois of Loosiana and Lower Mississip is well known, and those folks up in Kentuk and Tennessee sound different again. Further, language and accent varies a lot by class background; we may as well have Etons and Cockney fishwives.

    Like

  11. English used to have a second person plural.

    “You” was actual the plural/formal and “thee” or “thou” was the singular/informal.

    Like

  12. I don’t have much of a problem with you guys or you’ll.

    But when it comes time to use “he or she” or the more pc neutral “one”… (as in: one should start using you-you to indicate plural you.)

    Like

  13. I too, hate “you guys”, especially when I am in a restaurant. It doesn’t matter how fancy it is, white table cloths included, the young waitress or waiter always approached the table with a “How are you guys doing this evening?” greeting and all I hear are fingernails scratching a chalkboard. I am a 57 yr old woman who expected that by now I’d be treated with some kind of elderly respect, but that doesn’t seem to exist in this younger generation. All age aside, I am still a woman, and not a guy. Please!

    Like

  14. @Sarah:

    I am glad you touched on this: y’all is singular, all y’all is plural.

    I think non-southerners considering y’all plural is a common misconception, perhaps based on movie and TV caricatures…

    I am from North Carolina, the middle of the state, and I don’t hear y’all a lot anyway, but it would be used in informal situations, when relaxed or taken by surprise and not parsing you formally. I don’t remember hearing it a lot growing up…but still I know the difference somehow. :)

    When I was taking a beginning spanish lesson here in San Francisco, the teacher was trying to use y’all as a way to define ustedes. I informed her that all y’all is the more correct (only correct?) way to translate ustedes. After that in class discussions, she would make a point of using all y’all. She even used it on a written test I believe. :)

    Anyway, just something I wanted to add.

    Oh and @Sarah: co’cola…I thought I was the only one who really noticed that! Memories! If you find any interesting southern expressions, please email me, I love them! (My current favorite that can be used for a few situations deals with transplanted “Yankees” who think that because their kids were born in the south, the kids would be Southern: if a cat had kittens in the oven, you wouldn’t call em biscuits!)

    Like

  15. And now your Canadian sample size is up to 4 but I’m going to throw a wrench in the works and tell you that I prefer ‘youse’, although with a shorter vowel than you would find on the Sopranos.

    Like

  16. Y’all is a grammatically correct contraction or variant of “you-all” according to Merriam-Webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/you-all). However, “all y’all” is more a matter of emphasis, rather than referring to a larger plural group. ;) While I agree with many of the comments above, I find the blending and morphing of languages to be particularly fascinating in this ever-connected world. Go to France and you can order a “Hamburger avec cheese”, just make sure you put a French accent on it when you order it. Order the same thing in Montreal and they will point and laugh. Now who speaks “proper French?”

    Like

  17. We already have a way of making this distinction in english. “thou” is 2nd person singular. The only problem is if thou use it, thou will sound like an ass.

    Like

  18. Gotta agree with you again Tim. I’m in the South (Athens, GA) originally from NYC and there’s three things I always think of when I think of what the South has on the North. (Besides weather and women). Fried chicken, adding sugar to hot tea before icing it (resulting in SWeet Tea!) and a sensible plural for “you”. Granted, when I get excited and my NY accent comes out I probably sound a little funny saying it, but overall a very good word.

    Like

  19. I recently moved to the South from the Central Coast of California and wrote about this in my blog which chronicles the cultural change (http://californiadiaspora.blogspot.com/2008/04/gone-native-yall-is-actually-useful.html). I also have a degree in English.

    You’re right that it isn’t so simple, and the fact that in many parts of the country, usage and vocabulary has been modified to make up for this glaring omission tells us that just adding -s, or utilizing “you” as both a singular and plural construct is not sufficient to convey the desired meaning.

    I’ve started using “ya’ll” regularly. Around here, it doesn’t turn heads like it would if I was using it back in California.

    Like

  20. I’d be more inclined to go with the southern “you all” if it were an ingenious way of them clarifying the second person plural “you”. Unfortunately, “all” is a word that southerners tack onto just about anything, including (and pet-peevishly for me) the word “what”.

    “What-all is going on here?”
    “What-all did you do about that?”

    I’ve even heard “How-all”, as in “How-all did they do that?”

    As a transplanted northerner myself (for two months now), I must say that this has been the most difficult thing for my ears to date.

    Of course, being from the northern US, “you guys” seems perfectly normal to me, whereas I’m sure it doesn’t to most other people!

    Like

  21. The English language is fluid – despite what some academics want. It changes and grows, not always in directions we might like. I grew up in a former British colony in Africa, moved first to Kentucky then Maryland (sorta the north) and now am in south east Texas. I hate to admit that my language (you guys, you’ins, ya’ll, etc.) has changed but the reality is, language is not a bunch of formal rules written down in some book. Language is an expression of ourselves and if we don’t change, we die. Same for language (heard anybody speak Latin lately?).

    Like

  22. I grew up in the north-east of England, where yous (pronounced yuz) is common usage.

    I’m now living in the states (California, and now Ohio), and have partially adopted y’all – which serves the purpose very nicely, although the word doesn’t quite fit with my English accent, so I get some odd looks…

    Like

  23. Cool post. I just thought I would mention that Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is too far north to adopt “ya’ll” and so we’ve become known for using “yinz”. Example: “Are yinz going to the Steelers game?”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yinz

    I usually make a conscious effort to keep a neutral dialect but I’ve caught myself more than once mimicking the accent of another person I’m speaking with whether southern, english, or otherwise. It’s weird…

    Like

  24. I was wondering if anyone else would chime in with “you’ins” — though I don’t know if I would have spelled it that way. It’s pronounced either “yenz” or “yunz” or … damn, I can’t find the schwa on my keyboard. :-) I’ve only heard that one from my wife’s relatives in central and western Pennsylvania.

    I can’t tell you how hard I laughed when I heard two southerners arguing over the “proper” use of “y’all” vs. “all y’all”. The point one of them was making was that “y’all” is used to refer to one of a group, but not a specific one, while “all y’all” was used to mean everyone. eg: “Y’all better pick up that trash you dropped.” (Yup, “y’all” and “you” in the same sentence. Go figure.) vs. “It’s time for all y’all to go home.”

    Like

  25. I often wonder how foreigners can ever learn idiomatic English. It’s so mind-boggling… not just the “you guys”, but “gotta”, “hadda”, “gonna” “use to”…

    Like

  26. All well and good, you guys. When are we going to get down to the real grammatical work we have before us? Namely:

    1. The introduction of the lively and multipurpose “dude” into international English usage, and;

    2. The replacement of the tedious “he or she” and sexist pan-gender “he” with a singular “they.”

    Yeah, I know, grammar nerds, I know. But y’all have to get with the program eventually. And duuuuuude…it’s so convenient!

    Like

  27. Funnily enough you will hear both ‘youse’ (pronounced more like ‘yooz’) and ‘ye’ in Ireland. ‘Ye’ is much more common amongst people who were brought up outside the capital Dublin. ‘Yooz’ is much more common amongst people from some parts of Dublin.

    People from the other parts of Dublin tend to mix everything including the 2 above and ‘you all’ & ‘you guys’. I think the ambiguous plural ‘you’ is not used very much.

    ‘You F***heads’ would be the realm of Colin Farrel! :)

    Like

  28. I go to school in the south and refuse to say “Y’all”. However, it has slipped off my tongue a few times in which I became very upset about myself.

    Also, apparently no one out side of New York says waiting “on line”, instead of waiting “in line.” This was news to me.

    Like

  29. I’m from Cork on Ireland’s south coast and we use “ye” as a plural for “you” all the time. We also use “lads” as a group pronoun, mostly for groups of men, but for mixed groups too. Your example would, however, simply translate to “alright lads?” (I realise that there is also a certain Hiberno aspect in relation to the use of “alright” but we’ll get over that)

    I’m still at a loss as to why Americans use “bunch” for almost any indeterminate quantity of all sorts in the most bizarre manner, e.g. a “bunch” of water?!

    Oh, and don’t forget the AAQI… Australian American Questioning Intonation at the end of a statement”?” :P

    Like

  30. The Comment Zen alone was enough for me to leave a comment :)

    Funny how you guys over there – I am from the Netherlands – have such interesting ways of using the same words only to be pronounced differently or rather, more fluently.

    I live in a small province – Fryslân – with about half a million people who speak the closest language there is to English: Frisian. The differences you lads/ you guys / ya’ll come across from nation to nation or state to state, we have over here from county to county. Every 15 miles a different Frisian accent.
    What I am trying to clearify with my example is that the difference(s) in a language are inevitable and part of the great constant of everlasting change. Therefor we should embrace it. I certainly love English in its every shape and form!

    If that made any sense… anyway these were just my 2 foreign cents :)

    Like

  31. …or should we just reinstate thee/thou for the singular, and keep you exclusively plural/honorific?

    Come to think of it, the origins of the current usage of “you” are pretty cool in spirit, even if they’re lost on more or less everyone nowadays.

    Like

  32. I’m from Southern California, and while I do use “you guys,” I find that “y’all” is my favorite all-purpose plural, especially when public speaking. It sounds a little more refined to call my audience “y’all” rather than “guys.” I’ve even been known to say “all y’all,” and I’ve only been to the south twice. . .

    And as for he/she/they – the alternative that really cracks me up is “thon.” But some other funny ones are xe, ve, shey and co.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender-neutral_pronoun

    Like

  33. “Ye” is alive and well in Ireland, I’m surprised you didn’t hear it around Galway. I personally use it all the time.

    An aside: the familiar form of you, “thou”, fell from use apparantly due to the excessive politeness of the English, though it can still be heard in the north.

    Another aside: the Germans have a similar issue with “Sie”, which is used for both “her” and “you (polite)”.

    One last aside: if I’d spotted you in Galway I would have bought you a pint! I hope you took the opportunity to sample some…

    Like

  34. I grew up in New York, and I have no accent. But when I started studying languages at 15 and realized that English was stupid to not have a plural ‘you,’ I started using “y’all” when addressing multiple persons. It’s worked for me so far.

    Like

  35. I have to agree with Rich, language is an expression of who we are and where we are from. Change is inevitable, even in language. I cannot recall the reference but some one has said recently, “If you haven’t changed a deeply held belief (or word usage maybe?) in a really long time, either you are perfect or you are not growing.” Dude! It makes sense to me!!

    Like

  36. In Newfoundland, ‘Ye’ is often used as the official plural.
    That having been said, at one point, I lived in the Midwest with a motley assortment of Texans, Southerners and other odd-speakers. We had friends from Louisiana who were watching their three-year-old calling out ‘You *guys*!’ to the other kids on the playground and saying ‘Oh y’all… When he goes home, he’s *so* gonna get beat up!’ ;-)

    Like

  37. All Y’all are making some great comments on the original post.

    I rather like the idea of hearing a pretty Guinness drinking Irish lass use the ideom of you lads. But then again I just like the idea of listening to the pretty Irish lass Guinness or no Guinness. She’ll likely be a lot more fun though if y’all pony up for the Guinness.

    Uh Tim? She was pretty wasn’t she?

    Like

  38. I’m from the Northwest and after studying German for five years I made the conscious decision to use y’all as plural you. I’ve also thought that a good southern accent sounds like an American genteel icon.

    At the time I liked the idea that y’all was gender neutral. This is of course after learning that every noun in German has gender. ..American nouns don’t have gender! We’ve come further than that! So why shouldn’t a plural you be gender neutral?

    You guys sounds weird to me. You-uns and We-uns would also work beautifully and solves the problem of plural us…but y’all…it rolls off the tongue beautifully.

    Like

  39. Tim,

    Cool post as always. Love the fact that Galway is showing up in here. . .I lived there for two months back in 1994. . .worked at the McDonald’s in the city near the hill. Best time of my life.

    Quick note: As a writer/editor and owner of a marketing communications firm with deep Irish roots, I thought I would point out that you’ve got a “wee” typo in your blog. . .”Claddaugh” as you’ve got it in the blog post, should actually be “Claddagh”. . gotta’ love those typos. We all need an editor! Slan, Doc

    Like

  40. I have actually heard “y’all” in the melting pot which is Chicago. I use “you guys”. But, I have an aunt that says, “youse”. But, she also says, “Let me take and tell ya somethin’ “. Not sure exactly where the hell the extra ‘take and’ comes from.

    Like

  41. I am an Indonesian who went to college in the South, so I can totally relate to your post. Honestly, I’m impressed with your command of the Indonesian language, your definition of our plural is dead on! However, I’m not sure if young Indonesian ladies/girlfriends would appreciate being called “ibu-ibu” since that would mean “old ladies” in our language hehehe…;)

    Like

  42. Oh, man, let’s get this straight: y’all is plural except when spoken by Yankees and stereotypical characters in forgettable movies. As defined in the Urban Dictionary: “Southern 2nd person plural pronoun….Despite the assurance of some emails that have been passing around, “y’all” is plural. Only an absolute idiot would use it as a singular pronoun.”

    Like

  43. FYI: Ibu in Indonesian is mother or Mrs. and Bapak is father or Mr. (older man)

    Anda (formal) or kamu (informal) is “you”

    Saya (formal) or aku (informal) is “I”

    But you’re right–Indonesian is a very efficient language. It was largely derived from Malay, and malay was mostly a “trader” language throughout the archipelego, thus it had to be simple and efficient.

    Cheers,
    Ashton

    Like

  44. Tim,

    If I pull out my rusty Bahasa from uni many years ago, I recall “ibu” was more like “mother” or “madam” and to be used for women older than yourself, similarly “bapak” is more like “father” or “sir” and for men older than yourself.

    I also recall “saudara” was for someone of a similar age to yourself or “friend”. Child is “anak” and children is “anak anak”, by the way.
    Watch out for the “arak” too, its deadly.

    Frodo.

    Like

  45. When I took Greek in college we came across this problem when trying to find an equivalent for the Greek 2nd person plural.

    Our teacher actually encouraged us to translate as either “youse” or “ya’ll”. In the end, function dominates the use of language rather than grammar!

    Like

  46. My comment on the visual today: If I were to teach English again to Japanese or any other non-Americans (highly unlikely to happen — I didn’t like teaching so much), I would use The Simpsons as the material. It teaches both how Americans really speak and live.

    Like

  47. Why not just use “all of you” or “each of you”?

    e.g.

    “How are you guys doing?” –> “How are all of you doing?”
    “What do y’all want to drink?” –> “What would each of you like to drink?”

    Like

  48. Hey Tim,

    Are you in Ireland right now? If you’re staying in Dublin it would be cool to hang out. Have you been to Whelan’s? Best fun ever!!!

    Liam.

    Like

  49. I’m in Michigan in the US, and it’s a “you guys” kind of place. I was once a regular user of the phrase, but I have grown so tired of it. It’s just not proper or accurate. Here’s a quick story…

    Many years ago, I moved to the southern state of Florida. I started working for an upscale resort and the focus was on excellent customer service. Many of the people who worked there were from different states and countries, and along with myself there was a younger girl who worked there also from my home state of Michigan, and she used the phrase “you guys”…a lot.

    An integral part of our job was to take groups of 10-15 people on a tour of the park to get them started. Because I was already annoyed with the amount of times she used that phrase, I decided to follow her tour and count how many times she used it. 47 times. Yes, she said “you guys” to a group of 10-15 people 47 times within about 7 minutes! I even heard a British woman in the back of the group say sarcastically to her friend, that she wasn’t a “guy”.

    It was then that I made a conscious decision to use either the word “you” (plural), or the word “folks” for a group. “You guys” just isn’t accurate.

    Like

    • I used to use “you guys” without notice until a few MEN pointed it out to me 13 years ago that it sounds strange when it is used on females or mixed gender groups..I never thought about it before. I was a bit stunned and I laughed at them…A little while later, I noticed more and more how overused it is so I decided it’s not proper, now I don’t use it and I do point it out to people if they use it on me, not to, because I’m not a GUY regardless of how “fluid” or casual our language is.

      Like

  50. Just to add to the fun…it is well known that the most important action verb South of the US Mason-Dixon line is fixin’ (drop the “g” from “fixing”) as in “I’m fixin’ to go to the cooler, can I bring y’all back a drink?” or “I’m fixin’ to start a new hobby of learnin’ a new foreign language – English!” True life is better than fiction.

    Like

  51. @Patrick:

    I am sure I don’t appreciate being called an idiot anonymously by some contributor to Urban Dictionary for saying “y’all” is singular. I don’t know who contributed that definition, but if it’s as easy as Wikipedia is to edit, let’s take it with a grain of salt.

    And to “get this straight”, as you say, words carry meaning from the speaker to the receiver, and no other meaning can be assigned from an outside source. So I say “y’all” and mean singular, and the receiver interprets as singular, then that’s good. And the same goes for plural.

    But we are talking about learning another language which means some standards have to be set/established/agreed upon to help translations. So, while some of us are idiots I suppose, according to UD, perhaps we can agree that however the teacher/student define “y’all” takes precedent, without insulting anyone who disagrees.

    Like

  52. Tim,

    Just read your recent article (today) on ETR (Early To Rise). I recognized the article from a previous post here. Just wanted to send praise your way. Not only is it a great article…but landing on ETR is huge!

    Adios,

    SPT

    Like

  53. This is really interesting as it kind of leads to the question when does an accent stop being and accent a becomes a language in its own right. There has been a big debate in Scotland as to wether the Scots language should be tuaght in schools or not.

    Part of the problem is that Scots isn’t one language but varies from place to place much like teh point made about fresian to which it is closely related.

    Again much like the points about Irish English ‘Ye’ is still very common in Scotland however informal it is. If you want to see some particularly fine examples of scots usage (from Glasgow) look for a copy of “The Patter” excerpts here – http://www.lexiconplanet.com/wklyscreenpatter_eng.html

    Like

  54. When I was in the Navy I had some friends from Missouri and a couple of them said “You’uns” (I’m sure I borked the spelling) which I think was good for single “you” and plural “you” but mostly plural.

    Like

  55. Haven’t yall ever seen the movie “The Goonies”?
    Chunk and Sloth meet up with the rest of the guys and Chunk yells “Hey you guys!”
    It’s part of the American culture. We think using ‘lads’ and ‘chaps’ instead sounds gA.

    Like

  56. “and “youse guys” is a bastard child we should keep locked under the stairs”

    Clearly, you are NOT from Philadelphia or South Jersey and have never spent any significant amount of time in that part of the world. Because if you had, you would be embracing this very flexible plural verson of “you” and reminding everyone how much more fun it is to say than plain old “you.”

    Also, “ya’ll” is a perfectly acceptable word in the Northeast, but mostly in the cities. I’m from Philly, and I grew up using ya’ll (as well as youse guys) on a regular basis.

    Like

  57. Hey Tim,

    I have been reading your blog since I stumbled upon it.
    I noticed your entries are really well structured, thought out and you can definitely see you make a lot of research. Coud you one day maybe write about the effective ways of doing a research…

    Thank you,

    Anna

    Like

  58. Hey Folks,

    I’m actually living here in Galway. What we frequently use is ‘Ye’. What I’d like to know is when was Tim in Galway? Just plain nosiness :)

    Like

  59. orwigh’ Tim and evveryone – lemmee clarify innit; it’s birds when talkin’ ‘bowt girls like, and geezers when addressin’ da blokes. Jesus, simple innit? ;)

    Like

  60. Y’all seems so natural to me. I’m Georgia born and lived here all my life. I like it. “You guys” is painful to my ears and drives me nuts. I will admit Y’all stands out to me when I use it in other parts of the country and I try to avoid it on business calls. Everyone here says it. It just makes sense, but it doesn’t always fly in other places.

    Like

  61. I am Irish Australian, and here youse is a part of our daily vernacular. I always thought that it was proper Irish-English and that is where its roots lay and that I was entitled to use it as thus. It comes from the fact that our ancestors were forced to speak English here when they were deported as convicts for rebellion. English “ye” did not sit as well as yous for some reason. Someone who knows Irish may be able to explain that one.

    Like

  62. Tim:
    If still in Galway, check out O’Maille for a hand-knit Aran sweater. (I have no affiliation with shop … just like the sweaters.) Slainte!
    Paul

    Like

  63. I’m from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and around my hometown it’s Picksburghese. I personally use many of the words and when I moved across state I was picked on in school. Like words yinz (you guys, it’s my favorite of all), gum band (rubber band), and tellypole (telephone pole).

    Like

  64. “you guys” seems to be gaining far too much momentum alright but in Ireland we’d say “ye” an awful lot

    how ye doing?

    can’t understand why it isnt used by people more often- makes sense- most language have a plural you from – vous/vosotros/etc

    Like

  65. I’m from Canada, we use ‘you guys’. You wouldn’t want to be caught saying ‘y’all’ in Canada, it sounds very ‘hick’-like to us.

    Solution:

    Formally:
    You Gentlemen / You Ladies / etc

    Informally:
    You guys / You Gents’ / You lads / You trouble makers / etc

    Like

  66. Bill is right ‘all y’all’ is plural. I live in New York by way of Atlanta. Everyone asks me at least twice a week why I don’t have a southern accent. I come across a lot of people here who like to say “yuse guyses.” Hideous!

    Like

  67. I grew up in the south but was born in the north, so I too have a relatively neutral accent (also thanks to the Australian family I spent a lot of time with in my childhood) – I’ve always had a hard time with “y’all”, but I guess at the end of the day it’s a contraction of “you all” – I understand the complication for someone learning English to need a plural for “you” – but maybe it’s nice that there are so many options :) Y’all (to me) was always a bit, condescending, (forceful?) as opposed to “you all” or “you guys” which seemed more clear and…polite, perhaps. Hm, maybe it’s a question of emphasis? Or just what we are more comfortable with?

    Like

  68. Hi Tim
    I read ur book…the four hour work week..
    Well to start with, I think you have catered only to the outsourcing phenomenon (the equation of difference in currencies)and the time zone difference.
    Was your book only focussed for the readers in the US ? How do you suggest the DEAL be applied in countries like India and China?

    Like

  69. Jason got me on this one. I’ve converted to “you ladies” or “you [of some reasonable grouping term]“. I still slip into “you guys”, but I don’t like how it sounds.

    Like

  70. Your book Sir is very well written and an esy read, what scares me the most that it is so pin point accurate on how I am feeling and thinking. Courage is what is needed, because I believe that your concepts are on target.

    Are you a religous or of the christian faith because I think that you concepts line up with christian princpals, would you consider a version that use biblical references, i noted that you quoted several source but statyed away from the Bible.

    Like

  71. It may depend on where you are in the south, but I’ve lived in Tennessee my entire life and have only heard “all y’all” used as a plural form of “y’all” a handful of times. Usually I hear (and use) “y’all” in the same way you described — as a shorter form of “you all.” There are exceptions, and this may vary from area to area, but generally “y’all” is plural and “you” is singular.

    Like

  72. Hi y’all:

    Believe it or not, I’m Canadian, and yet I use y’all at times. (Okay, that sounds a bit odd…)

    I also use you guys, but it bugs me when someone says the same to me. I’ll often say you gals if talking to all women…but there doesn’t seem to be an appropriate short cut for mixed genders. I suppose I could say you guys and gals…

    But the point is, we’re lazy at heart–all of us.

    That’s why you’d never hear us saying: “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ear…”

    It would be more like: ” Hey y’all, listen up!”

    Maybe I should just stick to YOU.

    Eh? :)

    Like

  73. Well… Tim,
    In my perspective, that may sound horrible to your ears but It enables people who are not native english speakers to speak quite correctly even though they don’t master the language. I prefer hearing ‘you guys’ than the horrible things I can hear here in Montreal. Depending to who you talk to, you have to ajust to understand what they mean. The conversation could be half french half english or it could be all french words with an english meaning to it. Sometimes you have to ask someone if they use this one word with they english or french meaning!!! How bad is this?

    Oh, and I’m not talking about all the old words and the misspelling…
    It’s just horrible. And we need a law to make sure people keeping on speaking it…
    Crazy…

    Like

  74. Hi, your material is great, but I think there are applications for it beyond your wildest expectations — there are lots of different types of people who want to free up their time but not necessarily in order to see the world. I personally know someone, for example, who is a mother of three children, expecting her fourth, her husband and eldest son have a major emotional disorder, and she is looking for ways to clear up her time and create financial independence so that she can pay for all the therapists for them/her, short (one-day) sanity vacations for herself, etc, — no interest in travel, just needs time to deal with her life! Maybe you should have a way for readers to submit their own case studies, to help each other think about how these ideas can be actively applied in solving real life problems? (Perhaps you have this already and I just didn’t see it). Anyway, good work!

    Like

  75. I’m in Pittsburgh, and we use “y’uns,” where people pronounce it YINZ….
    How about “YINS GUYS.” Hey I say it because I think it’s comical. I love the diversity in language and it doesn’t bother me that people use different words, but then again I don’t let much bother me anymore!

    Y’uns is a contraction of “you ones”

    Like

  76. In Buenos Aires and many other Latin American cities, the use of “chicos” (or guys) for any group that has at least one guy is the norm.

    Like

  77. Other than the relatively accepted spelling of “yinz” as classic Pittsburghese, there’s little point in trying to figure out the precise spelling of the Yinz/Younz/You’uns/Yuns spectrum of pronunciation as it is almost exclusively a conversational word and almost never written down.

    The exact pronunciation of Yinz varies throughout Western and Central Pennsylvania. (And apparently beyond, from above comments.)

    Like

  78. Since my name is Guy and I’m a Southerner, “guys” or “you guys” always rubbed me the wrong way. Up North, it was common for strangers to greet me, “hey guy!” I would make a confused face and wonder how they knew me.

    And to respond to the earlier post, y’all is shortened “you all” so it is plural. Saying “all y’all” is redundant and another example of Southerners adding extra words when unneeded. We also like to drop out words and letters that are needed.

    Only Yankees use “y’all” as singular. However, when one Southerner asks another Southerner “how y’all doing?” it is assumed he means you and your family (or friends). It’s like saying, “How’s Mamma and them?”

    As we say ’round here to folks we will never see again in our lives, “see y’all later.”

    Like

  79. Born in Cajun country Louisiana; “brought up” in southern Mississippi- my sister and I both made a conscience effort to not have accents. People sometimes ask where I’m from with unmasked disbelief that I am born and raised Deep South (with Cajun infusion). A random guy at a store with a ZZ Top beard told me I sounded like I was from “Mahzerra er Mishergan er oner them places”. I’m pretty sure he was just trying to list off all the M states he could think of.

    I high school, my friends and I prided ourselves in speaking “proper” English: “chest of drawers” instead of “chestadraws”, “Tuesday” instead of “toosdee”… partly due to being in the theatre department where you could be graded harshly at competition if you spoke with an accent when your character didn’t have an accent.

    After years of work to eliminate my southern drawl- sometimes I want one. The word “ya’ll” is a guilty pleasure. It’s the smoothest and sweetest of all the plural “you” options. It makes the most sense to me, but I hesitate when I say it for fear of “sounding country”. If I could pick up a certain accent, it would be the refined Georgia drawl. Sounds like home-canned peaches and old money.

    I don’t actually know many people who say “all ya’ll”, though. I mean, we just went through the trouble of cutting down you and all, why would we want to add another all to that? Our drawl has us talking slow, the overuse of conjunctions helps to bring us back up to speed. Most people just use “ya’ll” for groups and a conjunctive you for singular.

    “Have you eaten yet?”
    Singular: “Ya’eat yet?” (This was actually on a local billboard)
    Plural: “Have ya’ll eaten?” (proper) or “Ya’ll’ve eaten?” (informal)

    “What are you doing?”
    Singular: “Wha’ya doin’?”
    Plural: “Wha ya’ll doin’?”

    “You just did something dumb and I hope you have learned a lesson from it.”
    Singular: “That’ll learn ya”
    Plural: “Ya’ll’s ignant:”

    There are some things that I believe Southerners say better than anyone. Case in point: Pecan. “Pehcahn” is a tasty pronunciation where as “peecan” sounds like what country folks use when their toilet stops working. I mean really, which would you rather have made into a pie?

    Oh, a little lagniappe for you: the coastal town of Biloxi is pronounce Bu-lux-ee. =^) I’m just sayin’.

    Like

  80. English has lots of natural, simple ways of getting around this “problem”:

    Why not just say “you all” when you mean 2nd person plural? e.g. “Would you all like something to drink?”

    How about “Who’d like some lemonade?” or “Is anyone ready to order?”.

    I grew up on The Electric Company’s “HEY YOU GUUUUUUUUUUYS!!!!!” and that’s what I think of every time I hear it or say it. Plus I’m not a guy so it just doesn’t feel quite right when I’m addressed that way.

    If I’m trying to convey a casual, colloquial feeling I’ll say “Y’all” but I think I might switch to “Ye” – that’s a little more fresh, in a retro kind of way!

    Thanks for the post!

    Like

  81. I agree that “you guys” is for informal situations. I cringe when I see a host or hostess at a restaurant address an older couple as “you guys”!!!

    A polite way to address them would be “you folks”, or “folks”.

    I agree with the entry above that recommends “you gentlemen” and “you ladies” for formal situations and for mixed gender groups, formally it becomes “you folks”.

    In California, if a public speaker repeatedly addresses the audience as “y’all”, we cringe!!

    Like

  82. Since you wrote an article on language use, I find the error in the text below funny.

    What about just adding as “s” and calling it a day?

    Wouldn’t it be wise to go back and correct as to an? You probably allow this to happen as a “small bad thing”. However, you are promoting proper use of language and using it inproperly.

    ###

    LOL… good idea! In a final twist of irony, I think you mean “improperly” and not “inproperly” :)

    Tim

    Like

  83. In french we use different pronouns for singular and plural forms:

    Tu – singular you (informal/casual)
    Vous – plural you

    But there is a subtility (it’s french you know, just a tad complicated). You can substitute ‘tu’ by ‘vous’ to obtain a formal singular form. But it’s only contextual because there is no difference in spelling whether you are adressing a single person or a group.

    That is all :)

    Like