And, Of Course, Y’All

by Randy Murray on April 24, 2014

I grew up in a border territory. Some might call me a Yankee, but I can and do use “y’all” more than an Northerner should. My rather indistinct midwestern accent hides the fact, but I’m never very far from calling on y’all for help.

Y’all is an interesting pronoun. It’s a form of addressing a group. “What are y’all up to?” It’s rather useful, and not just in a colloquial sense.

But this word also has the potentially to take that passive-aggressive Southern undertone that many miss. “Bless his heart,” sounds like a pleasant affirmation, but it really means, “he’s not that bright, is he.” Y’all clearly separates the addressee from the addressed. Y’all sounds friendly, but don’t confuse it to be always so.

My advice: leave the aggression and go for the pleasant, friendly approach.

“Hey, y’all” is useful to attract the attention of a group.  And confusingly, but correctly, y’all can also be used in the singular sense. You can use it to address a single person. For someone like me who is terrible at remembering names, y’all sounds more pleasant than calling everyone sport or pal. If

My advice for using y’all is the same as for other words and terms that you are not familiar with or use regularly in speech: use this word carefully, and, perhaps, not at all until you’re with someone who does speak the word with ease. Practice with someone who can coach you.

But you can practice it safely on your own in writing.

Today y’all try out the word y’all. Ask a person or a group what they’d like to eat for dinner, where they’d like to do, or what they’ve been up to. See if you can use this flexible term of address in a way that doesn’t seem stiff or clumsy or patronizing. Bless your heart, y’all might need a Southern friend to help y’all out.

{ 0 comments }

They

04.23.2014 writing

If you have come to understand how both of the words “it” and “we” are difficult pronouns to use well, now move on to the even more difficult “they.” They is an oppositional word. “We” includes me. But they are other. They are outside. They are different. Or are they? What do they really think […]

0 comments Read the full article →

We

04.22.2014 writing

Here’s another difficult and perilous word for writers: “we.” ‘We’ is safe enough when reporting facts. “We went to the Waffle House.” Nothing dangerous about that “we.” But when using this pronoun to describe experiences it is very difficult to do so authentically. Who are you to say how others think or feel without asking them? “We […]

0 comments Read the full article →

It

04.21.2014 writing

“It” is an interesting word for writers. It is also a dangerous word. When writers point to an object, a thing, there is a strong tendency to attribute human or animal characteristics to the thing. Be careful here. A thing does not think or feel. It does not ponder, worry, or fret. It does not consider. […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Writing Assignment: Write An Exploration Of Personal Pronouns

04.18.2014 writing

Pronouns are some of the fundamental building blocks of language and writing. They seem quite simple: I, You, He, She, It, We, and They. These words are simple and easy to define. But to the writer each of these words is a clue that writers need to pay close attention to what they are doing. […]

0 comments Read the full article →