Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Y is for…Your, You’re, Y’all, Ya’ll, Yall, You All, You Guys, and Yakety-Yak

a-to-z-letters-2013Y-Day in the A to Z Challenge.  Twenty-five letters finished. One to go.

Y has been a struggle for me. I listed possibilities, but none inspired me. Here’s a round-up of my thoughts.

1. Your (possessive), you’re (contraction, you are)

These two Y words are brutalized regularly all over the Internet, but writing about them again won’t make a bit of difference. These two commonly confused words (your and you’re) are right up there with its and it’s; and there, they’re, and their. All frequently confused.

When I see these errors I think, “Are you smarter than a third grader?”  If you are, then take the time to straighten out these classic mix-ups. Of course, I am preaching to the choir now. Right?

2. Y’all, ya’ll, yall, you all.

This topic had some possibilities. Regional English.  Look at this linguistic map of the United States. It’s amazing how many different American Englishes exist.

linguistic map

I thought about giving one example of regional English, the word y’all, but checked on Grammar Girl, and she has already written a long piece about it. (Click here to read it.) I guess I can’t write about that. I could talk about my Texas relatives, and how they use y’all, as in y’all come on down and visit. That sounds nice when they say that.

Bryan A Garner, a southerner, has written almost a full page on y’all, ya’ll,  yall, and you all in Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009). He reports that y’all is the correct form of this regional (southern) usage, used even by highly educated speakers. Ya’ll is a misspelling. Yall has been used by some writers, although this spelling is not widespread and is not recommended. He also suggests the use of you all as perhaps the way to avoid raising northern eyebrows.

Serious questions arise about y’all. Is it singular or plural? If it is singular, how do you say the plural? Let it be known that there have been heated debates over this question!

3. You guys.

You guys? *shudder* Garner says this phrase is now replacing you all in urban areas outside the South and Southwest.

Garner cites Steve Blow, a writer for Dallas Morning News (27 Sept. 2002), who called the term you guys a “horrid Yankee construction.” I must say I agree with that!

The first time I heard this informal phrase, I remember disliking it intensely.  I was observing in a classroom, and a teacher called her students to attention by saying, “You guys should put your work away now and get ready for lunch.”

Are girls guys? Being politically correct these days means you can’t use the phrase guys and gals or guys and dolls. Please. That would be offensive. So evidently when speaking to a mixed sex group, in popular English, the term you guys can now be used informally.

What’s the plural of you guys? You guyzez? What about the plural-possessive form? Youse guyzes’? Or how about youse guys’s for the plural-possessive form? Who knows what will come next in our language.

Then one day, it happened.  I caught myself using the term you guys when working with a group of teenagers in a drug and alcohol rehab program. Ugh. That’s how language changes. We hear a word or phrase so many times that it slithers into general language usage, and we are hardly aware of it happening. But I was aware of it and vowed to never use that phrase again.

4. Yakety-yak.Yakety Yak...Coasters

The dictionary is handy in the A to Z Challenge. When you get stuck on a letter, you can scan the dictionary for ideas. I scanned the Y section and came upon yak (animal), yak-yak (slang for too much talk), and yakety-yak. That roused my memories of The Coasters singing, “Yakety Yak, Don’t Talk Back,” a song from many years ago. Of course, I started to sing it. My husband, off in another room of the house, laughed and asked, “What on earth caused that outburst?”

He should know by now that I am working on the A to Z Challenge, and that any weird thing I say or sing  has to relate to The Challenge.

A to Z does that to you.

Listen to Yakety Yak here.

cats bunchThe Last Meow.

Y words? Why didn’t you ask us kitties for a Y topic? We have tons of Y words. Just look up Y names for kittens on Internet, and you can find hundreds like Yo-Yo, Yum-Yum, Yanisha, Yasmin, Yassar Aracat, and Ying and Yang, and lots more. You could have done your whole post on kitty cat names. Next time, ask us for advice, would ya?

Meow for now. =<^;^>=

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9 thoughts on “Y is for…Your, You’re, Y’all, Ya’ll, Yall, You All, You Guys, and Yakety-Yak

  1. K.Jacqleene on said:

    I thought you were speaking Joe Pesci dialect for a moment. Ah come, on youse guyzes know I’m messin wich ya. 🙂 :):):)

    • HaHa. You gave me a laugh. Thanks for dropping by.

      • K.Jacqleene on said:

        How did that comma get placed after come and not on? If I have told my right middle finger once I’ve told it a thousand times, stop getting out of line and wait for the brain signal. 🙂

  2. lanitaboyd on said:


    Enjoyed your Y post! Look at my FB page for a simple chart explaining y’all.


    Lanita Bradley Boyd 859.441.4999 http://lanitaboyd.com/musings/

    Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

  3. In certain parts of PA they say You-in’s (I’m not sure if that’s how it is spelled)

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