The Grammar Belle

Spiffing y'all up, one typo at a time

“Y’all” 101

Hey, y’all . . . did ya know that “y’all” is actually a complex and quite versatile word? If I were to count how many times a day I say it, the number might be staggering—especially to my Yankee* friends who like to harass me about it. I use it to refer to one of y’all, a few of y’all or even all y’all. I use it in the pauses in conversations, often to buy myself thinking time. All by itself, and nice and stretched out, it can convey surprise, joy, tenderness, shock, fear and more. When directed at my daughters, “y’all” usually means “HolycowIcan’tbelieveyou’redoingthatstopitrightnow!”

Feel free to add it to your word bank and use it as often as you like! But, I beg of you, please put the apostrophe in the right place. It’s a contraction, you know, just like “aren’t,” “should’ve,” “you’ll” and “we’ll.” And I think that double-l ending is where the confusion comes in (at least that’s what I tell myself to keep from being totally depressed at the state of language these days).

As you learned in elementary school, the apostrophe in a contraction takes the place of the missing letters. Since “y’all” is the contraction of “you” and “all” (NOT “ya will” or “ya shall” or “ya fell” or “ya anything else”), the apostrophe takes the place of “ou.”

While I appreciate the attempt of the artist who created this piece to spread my favorite word across the (Pinterest) nation, that misplaced apostrophe shot it all to hell (not, as my iPhone autocorrect prefers, “he’ll”). 


*In future blog posts, I expect that I’ll use this word often. For me, “Yankee” is a loose term, referring to Northerners, Californians, Canadians and pretty much any non-Southerners. 

This blog post is starting to look like a pharmaceutical ad with all these disclaimers. Anyway, by “harass” I mean gently and good-naturedly tease.

3 comments on ““Y’all” 101

  1. Michelle C
    July 25, 2012

    6th generation Texans such as myself, often refer to Northerners as anyone north of the Red River. However, Minnie Pearl, from Tenneessee, made the “Howdeeeee!” And the “Y’all come back now, ya hear”, everyday phrases so I guess I’ll have to extend the boundaries to include a few more of our southern states.

  2. julie
    July 25, 2012

    Nice spelling lesson, Grammar Belle. Be sure to treat yourself to a nice glass of champagne for writing this one.

  3. Pingback: A Year of Grammar Goodies (With Bonus Pop Quiz) | The Grammar Belle

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This entry was posted on July 25, 2012 by in Don't Make Me Beg, Punctuation, Southernisms.

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