Grammar, Y'all

Y'allToday, class, we turn our attention to a number of popular words and phrases. Now, these aren’t just ANY words and phrases: no, they are words and phrases which drive me CRAZY because they are so often misused. So, please pay attention, because you’ll be tested on this material, and your grade will go into your (pause for gasp) PERMANENT RECORD.

“Y’all:” ah, the granddaddy of all Southernisms. Most of you in the class today know that “y’all” is a contraction of “you” and “all,” and thus is ALWAYS plural. But there may be some students who hail from parts North who think “y’all,” or its evil half-twin, “you all” (pause for shudder) is singular (pause for derisive laughter). I wish I could say that this lesson is “once and for all,” but “y’all” just seems to be something that folks from parts North will just never get. Regardless, here goes: “y’all” is ALWAYS plural. Example: “How y’all doin’?” is a question in which the speaker is inquiring as to the well-being of at least TWO people. If the speaker were addressing one person, he or she would simply ask, “How are you?” (although down here, the pronunciation would likely be “HAR yew?” Perfectly acceptable).

As with many words, “y’all” has some modifications; let’s discuss and explain those now. First, “all y’all.” While “y’all” is ALWAYS plural, “all y’all” is EXPONENTIALLY plural. Using “all y’all” in the previous example: “How all y’all doin’?” means that the speaker is not only asking about the status of the original two, but also, in fact, is asking how everyone in the entire ROOM is feeling.

And then there’s “y’all all,” typically pronounced, “y’all ALL.” While “y’all” is always plural, and “all y’all” is exponentially plural, “y’all all” is plural and pissed off. Example: “Y’all ALL can just kiss my….”

I hope this helps, but frankly, given that “y’all” and its cousins have been misunderstood and misused for so long, I have my doubts that this short lesson will make any difference. Therefore, let’s turn our attention to some phrases that MAY be able to be corrected, before it’s too late (for what, I don’t know. I’m just sayin’…):

“Impact:” I’m really trying with “impact,” I really am, class. I’m trying to remember that English is the most malleable, most adaptive, most evolutionary language, constantly changing, constantly growing. I’m trying not to get all James J. Kilpatrick all up in here (as you young folks say…or used to say, ten years ago). But in MY day, “impact” was a noun. Period. “The impact of the U.S. Constitution as a model for democratic government cannot be overstated.”

But then, about 20 years ago, “impact” started creeping up as a verb, most often as (pause for second shudder) “impacted” or “impacting.” Example (pause for wave of nausea to pass): “The U.S. Constitution impacted thinking about democratic government forever.” As with so many other words changing form over the language’s history, I guess I’ll have to accept this one, too. Just give me some time, class.

But if I EVER use “impactful,” you have my permission to shoot me dead. Right then, right there.

Well, we’re about out of time, today, class, but thankfully, we’ve only got one more…

“I could care less:” STOP IT! STOP saying that phrase! If you mean that you’re completely apathetic about the subject, that you just don’t give a damn, then you COULDN’T care less. If you COULD care less, that means you actually CARE. You care so much that you have LESS care to give. (Y’all ALL) STOP IT!

There are many more, of course, but we’ll have to take them up in our next session. In the meantime, don’t forget tomorrow’s exam: please write legibly, filling your entire Blue Book, citing appropriate references.

Class dismissed; I hope all y’all found the topic impactful.

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Richard Eisel

Richard Eisel

Richard Eisel lives in Georgia. Besides writing, he enjoys reading, sailing, and baseball. He has been working on his first novel for about thirty years.  So far, he has written three paragraphs, but they are really good paragraphs.