Hey Ya’ll. I’m a California born girl, raised in North Carolina. My culture is rather confusing. I am extremely susceptible to the accents I am exposed to. When I hear something I like, I incorporate it into my own speech – whether the speaker is a relative, a friend, or someone I hear on television. I am pretty much a linguistic nightmare, as my average/normal/everyday accent is evolving continuously.
Now I am here to explain myself. Considering that I have lived the majority of my life here in the south, given the fact that I still live here now, and that my definition of BBQ is hard core and set – I really shouldn’t have to give this explanation. Still, even here in the south – non-natives look at me funny when I throw “Ya’ll’s” into my conversation. Admittedly – it may stand out between my fast paced california toned viciousness and a hardy helping of “Like’s”.
If I am not really a southerner, if I have not really allowed myself to fall into the drawl of the language, if I’ve never hung my forearm out a pickup truck window or had a “maw-maw”, and if I prefer un-sweetened tea – then why in the world do I allow myself use “Ya’ll?”
Some people laugh at me. Here I am to explain:
“Ya’ll” is not just a cutesy use of colloquial folksy to make my day that much more country. Nope. I have thought about it. I have analyzed the situation. I have done my research. And given the circumstances I feel it is the best thing that I could do for the entire english language.
You think I am not serious?
Have you ever tried to call the attention of a particularly giggly group of junior high girls – “You there!” “Come on -“”hey.” Are you referring to one specific person? Or all of the girls?
Have you ever had to leave a room – looking back to the inhabitants you say – “I’ll miss you!” You can only look at one person at a time. Some people you cannot even say goodbye to personally without it sounding slightly awkward – but you really hope they all understand that you are referring to each and every one of them individually. Not even as a group – just a plural group of You..s.
Obviously we don’t say yous. ( except in very special portions of the midwest. Very special).
But how do we convey this plural you? It would be such a handy word to have, avoiding some awkward situations and making others just a tad more lucid.
Could it be that such an important and obviously necessarily word is missing from our language?
The truth is – we had plural you. In early, middle, and even the beginnings of modern english you was plural. The singular form was Thou. Now you may ask what happened? How could we lose such a useful expression? How can a language forget a word it uses everyday?
It is actually quite a fascinating story –
Once upon a time the Normans invaded france. Normans had a funny custom of referring to the most important people in their society ( kings, queens, and the like ) in the plural. A farmer ” He would go to the market” but a King ” They would go to the palace.” Understood? Referring to one person in the plural showed great respect. Over the years “highly respected” became a much more general term. There are no exact dates to this – only lots of interesting theories – but by the 16th century almost everyone used “you” with eachother and to be called a “thou” was an absolute insult. In fact, one play on the execution of sir Walter Raliegh includes the line:
Dost thou “thou” me, thou dog?!
And so eventually the word dropped out of our language completely – the exact dates and history are under much debate.
What does that leave us with? One word. To express second person pronouns –
plural, singular, formal, informal, objective, and nominative. We have one inadequate word.
None of the other personal pronouns have this problem ( see ridiculous table below)
( there is actually an entire religious debate going on about
wether bible translators should use thee/thou/you/ye or
update to “modern english” to be more understandable
and “compromise meaning” in the process)