Sunday, June 25, 2017

Why "Y'all" ain't one of my favorite expressions

"Y'all (the contracted form of "you all") isn't one of my favorite expressions, for a number of reasons. For one, it sloppily paints all the members of a group of individuals with the same broad brush. When used disapprovingly, as in "Y'all told me the office was gonna be open yesterday, but it was closed," it may ascribe blameworthiness to a whole group of individuals, whether they all deserve blame or not. It may ascribe blameworthiness to individuals who are innocent of any wrongdoing. Unnamed individuals may be referred to by the speaker who says, "Y'all..." The speaker takes no responsibility for saying exactly whom she is referring to. She simply makes an unverifiable, vague, and nebulous characterization of some group of individuals (as in "Y'all didn't say I had to be here by Tuesday"). The identity of the persons whom the speaker is referring to is never explicitly stated. It's never made clear exactly who is being referred to.
      Another reason that "Y'all" isn't one of my favorite expressions is that the listener may infer that she is the person whom the speaker is referring to, but this inference is left up to the listener to make, given that the speaker has broad-handedly made an assertion, declaration, accusation, or invitation addressed to whomever is within earshot, but to no one in particular. If the listener finds the speaker's use of the expression "Y'all" to be clumsy, inappropriate, or offensive and confronts the speaker with the clumsiness, inappropriateness, or offensiveness of her assertion, declaration, accusation, or invitation as it applies to the listener, the speaker may simply deny that the listener was the person being referred to. Thus, the expression "y'all" may be empty of any definite reference or meaning.

No comments:

Post a Comment