I am not southern. I was born far to close the Mason-Dixon to ever be considered southern, however, as a northern transplant to Chapel Hill, I’ve found myself adopting some southern tendencies (and I don’t just mean my obsession with Carolina BBQ and sweet tea). The longer I’ve been here the more I hear “ya’ll” edging into my day-to-day vocabulary… to my family, “Are ya’ll ready yet?” To my friends “Do ya’ll want to go to the store now or later?” At work, “Have ya’ll seen the stapler?”
At first it sounded a bit strange coming out of my mouth, but now I like it, especially as I think about why ya’ll really is a better way to address a group than the alternative, “you guys”. But “ya’ll,” which is the combination of the words you+all, is gender neutral. Think about it, saying “you guys” implies you’re talking to a bunch of men, it’s not really accurate if you’re addressing a mixed gender group, but ya’ll it’s all inclusive!
Just look at the multitude of uses of ya’ll found via the wiki site (that’s right ya’ll has a wiki!)
- A replacement for the plural of you.
- Example: “Y’all can use the internet at the same time!”
- Example: “Y’all can come over at around 10:30,” Stephanie says.
- Stephanie explains to John that John and John’s friends, who are not present at the time, can come over at around 10:30. Stephanie is speaking to John, but treats John as a representative for others.
- Example: “Y’all sell the best candies, Mrs. Johnson.”
- Y’all is received by Mrs. Johnson who is the representative of a small candy business.
- Example: “Hey, y’all!”
- A greeting that addresses a multitude of people without referencing a singular identity comprising that multitude
Oh and who could forget, the classic… “Ya’ll come back now, ya hear!?”