Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My First Night in Mississippi, Y'all

After 5 different states and a total of 25 hours in an uncomfortable rental truck, we made it to Jackson, Mississippi.

Jo, Christien, and I were very happy to get out of the truck and stretch our legs, and we felt weird (for lack of a better word) to think that we were actually in Mississippi--almost 2,000 miles from home.

The air felt clear and thick and cool. We checked into our motel room and set out to experience the South firsthand. We chose a Mediterranean place called Feifer's, and found a table on the screened-porch side.

A group of college-age people chatted loudly at a table near ours and we tried to decipher bits of their conversation we overheard.

I felt anxious and excited to sit on a porch in Mississippi, eating a fresh salad, and listening to what could very well become my own accent in due time.

I have no problem with developing a drawl, but I'm unsure about the particularities regarding the uses of certain words or phrases. In an attempt to understand exactly how "y'all" is used, I asked Jo and Christien about the proper usage of the word. We discussed it as we ate, and wondered if "y'all" is ever used when speaking to a single person or if it's strictly used when addressing two or more people. We laughed and tried to imitate some of the endearing accents we overheard, and we had a really great time.

When we left, our waitress said, "Thank y'all", and then added with a wink "And by that I mean, 'Thank you.'"

We all felt a little embarrassed that she had overheard our musings, but it was comforting to know that she at least had a sense of humor about it.

The question still remains, however, about how to use "y'all". Maybe a native speaker can enlighten me, but is it ever used for addressing just one person or is "you" still commonly used??

I think I'll proceed to only use "y'all" to address two or more persons so as not to overuse the word or make too much a fool of myself any further.

Write on, y'all.


  1. Love this story! It seems the word is used for the 2nd person plural in particular:

    I hope y'all (you and Jo) have a great time in Mississippi! I won't object if you get a fantastic Southern drawl. :-)

  2. I have used the word "y'all" my entire life, and I have never used it to refer to a singular individual. The next time I call home I'll ask my Mom and she can check in with her coworkers to see if anyone there uses y'all in the singular.

    Y'all is a contraction for "you all" and, in my experience, always refers to two or more. If you've studied a foreign language, just think of it as the second person plural, informal.

    Also, I adore you story. Write on!

    1. I understand that it has originated from "you all" and is therefore a simple contraction. I've actually always adored y'all as a contraction, but I think what throws me off and is the source of my uncertainty is that people use the phrase "all y'all", which would end up being "all you all" and that doesn't exactly make sense. So, as someone who took a couple courses in linguistics, studying the evolution of language usage, I was just curious to understand exactly how it has changed and is currently used.

      So far I haven't noticed the usage of y'all for addressing a single person...but I did find an interesting picture that I'll try to post on here later. It breaks down the you/y'all/all y'all.
      And I believe my spanish teacher actually used y'all as a way to explain what the second person plural informal even meant, so that makes sense. But some other word usage here doesn't really make sense...and I'll post about that later, too. :) Let me know what your mom says.

  3. I wonder if it could be used in the sense of we all, or us all, you and me all, then it could be used for the person speaking and the person being spoken to, and that could make sense to me anyway. Then it would be more like it is including oneself in the y'all would make it more personal, which y'all to me seems to be an endearing term. Kinda like the honey, and sweetie, and dearie, and those kinds of terms. I get the feeling that y'all is meant to bring you closer into the fold, or group, or part of the community, family, type thing. Good luck in studying this interesting slang term :)

  4. All Y'all is acceptable, as is Y'allses when speaking of something everyone should have. As in "Y'all got Y'allses?" Yes, I've heard that. But Y'all is plural only. I don't know about Mississippi but in Georgia (we transplanted here seven years ago) they also say things like "cut on the light" "mash those buttons" and instead of driving someone around, they ride someone around. Just in case you run into those.