ON A FREQUENTLY SEEN AND SADLY INCORRECT EXPLANATION OF THE USE OF "Y'ALL"
This is my effort to clarify the proper use of "y'all" as I have known it.
- •This list is about how I believe the singular y'all is a MYTH.If you google y'all, you will find explanations of the word that include the idea that y'all can be singular or plural. I have never heard anyone use a singular y'all. I would never say "I'm sorry y'all are sick" to one friend who is battling a cold. The very idea of this makes my ears hurt. Y'all is always plural. Never singular. I have two theories as to how this misconception arose.
- •Theory 1: A misunderstanding of overheard conversation.Let's say two women, Mary Claire and Emma Kate, are talking in the church parking lot. Mary Claire says, "I hope y'all have a good day!" to Emma Kate. An observer might think MC is using y'all in the singular, referring to EK. The observer does not realize that MC is also referring to EK's husband Bo, who scooted out of church early to make his tee time.
- •Theory 2: A misunderstanding of the distinction between y'all and all y'all.It's not that y'all is singular and all y'all is plural. It's that y'all refers to one group, and all y'all refers to multiple groups. So if Mary Claire and Emma Kate are joined by Muffin and Caroline and their husbands in the parking lot, and Muffin says, "Are all y'all going to the cookout next week?" she is talking about all the different couples, as though each couple is a "y'all" and they are collectively "all y'all."
- •If you are from the south and have truly and repeatedly and unassailably heard "y'all" used in a singular form, please let me know.Or if you have anything to add re y'all, please feel free to share.
- •And that's all, y'all.I almost launched into an explanation of why I said "cookout" instead of "bbq" above, but that's for another list.