What’s the Plural of Y’all?
By Jim Kuiken
“Where y’all frum?”
“Sweetwater, Republic of Texas USA.”
Seems like a simple question, and a direct answer…if you’re from Texas…
To the outside world, lots of folks have a deep misconception of Texas, and a lot of Texans are just fine with that. If you really want to know what Texas is like, you can see a little of the official, and probably more holistic view of it here, and a little more Texas-centric cultural view of it here, but suffice to say, it is:
Texas is NOT a bunch of rural hicks, chawin’ and-a-spittin’ in the dust, like much of the outside world seems to think. But part of the overall Texas culture IS independent, self-reliant, proud, and fiercely Texan.
So…what is the plural of y’all? Y’all can be singular or plural, but is generally just generic. “Y’all come back soon” can be applied to one person, or a group of people. But there is a variation that is strictly plural.
I had just come out of a high-level meeting between the leaders of three corporations discussing mutual business opportunities at the Tower Club in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia (an exclusive club just outside of Washington DC for corporate leaders, government contractors, etc.), and was in the elevator coming down from the 17th floor penthouse club with those executives, and during our post-meeting casual conversation, one of the CEOs mentioned that she was originally from Texas.
Being the straight-laced, serious businessman that I am, I immediately turned to the rest of the executives in the elevator, and said “So…for all of you non-Texans, here’s a quick question. What is the plural of y’all?” Turning quickly to her, I said “Not you, just them.”
They all stood there for a moment with the deer-in-the-headlights stare, and finally one of them said “Y’alls?”
Everyone cracked up (I’m sure several of them were thinking the same thing, but he had the courage to say it), and I said “Nope.”
Another one said “Youns?” (pronounced yoonz or you-uns). Everyone just lost it. Some of them were actually wiping tears from their eyes they were laughing so hard, and one of them asked if that was even a real word. Well…in some parts of the Ozarks (especially Missouri), yes – it’s about the same as y’all – but…it’s singular too. The plural (this is real, I’m not making this up…) is “younses”.
After a couple more interesting guesses, I finally had pity on them, turned to the Texan, and asked what it is. Without hesitation she said “All y’all” (pronounced as one run-on word).
“So, you ARE a true Texan!”
She just smiled, and in total violation of DC corporate-speak, answered in Texan. “Yup.”
We accomplished more in that two-minute elevator ride than we had in the entire hour-and-a-half luncheon / business meeting, and we capped it off with an agreement to work together…again, using a time-worn Texas formula for getting things done:
“Less talkin’, more doin’”.
So, if y’all - or even all y’all – decide to come on down to Texas (physically or mentally), come on down…with an open mind, a friendly smile and a sense of humor, and youns’ll fit right in!
Just Don’t Mess With Texas…