This one resonated with me. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve typed something into a computer interface and had it not recognize the word or phrasing I knew was correct, or hoped it was.
Back when I was writing specifications, tech manuals and notes for architectural drawings, it used to drive me nuts having to check and then tell the computer to ignore (Passive voice! Arrrg! Everything in a specification is written in passive voice!) or to add the more common ones to my personal dictionary. A lot of good that did on company computers that I would be forced to abandon every other year.
Don’t get me started on latin legal phrases or attempting to point out fallacious argument with well-known short hand. Or slang. Really, don’t get me started on slang, or as I said on Facebook;
I find it amusing when someone outside of the South tries to tell me how to spell ya’ll. As if there is proper spelling for slang.
Another friend of mine linked to a blog article on just that subject;
Some writers put the apostrophe AFTER the ‘a’, as in: ya’ll. *shudders* Now tell me, does that make ANY sense given the law of contractions? No. It does not. The proper way to contract ‘you all’ is by using the apostrophe to replace the ‘ou’ in you and the space between the words, as in: y’all
It’s beautiful in its simplicity, don’t you think? Boy, do I feel better, maybe even up to tackling a semi-colon or two. Thanks for letting me get that out of my system
Now if I was trying to impart colloquialism, trying to drag you kicking and screaming into the South of the United States, where ya’ll is a word ya’ll hear regularly, I might quip something like them’s fightin’ words or something to that effect. But since ya’ll wouldn’t know the perfect frame in which to place my attempts to communicate southernisms, most likely my attempts to draw you into the picture will fail.
Put simply; the error is in believing it’s a contraction to start with. As if ya’ll was ever two words compressed into one. That slang is capable of being defined or set down into anything permanent like written language.
I have had people accost me before (carpetbaggers, mostly) insisting that ya’ll is properly spelled y’all; that it is a contraction of you and all and so duh…
…but as I say to them, it’s a connector between ya and ll, that little hanging bit (‘) in the middle. The apostrophe? It represents any number of letters, syllables and whole words I don’t feel I need to take the time to pronounce. If you actually attempted to write the word phonetically, it would have at least two a’s in it, something more akin to ya’all or ya-all.
I don’t go around pretending to know how to spell any number of words that they might say in New Jersey (youse? use? Who knows?) it’s slang. I’d really prefer that people didn’t try to tell me how to spell my slang. But I do thank you for spending the time it took to read this. If ya’ll are ever in the neighborhood, come by and sit a spell.
After a bit of pushback (more than a bit) I decided I’d trot out an example to illustrate the point. Consider the following sentence, which I’m sure most Southerners have heard more than once.
“ya’ll be round later”
Is it a question? Is it a statement? A demand? What words and/or punctuation will complete that sentence coherently? Is “you” or “all” in it? Well, it depends on the speaker.
A question “ya’ll be round later?” would probably be completed like this; “Will all of you be present when I need you later?” As a statement “ya’ll be round later.” would render out something like “Come by the house later, I’ll be here.” or maybe “Go (wherever I’m going) and we’ll meet up later.” The demand “ya’ll be round later.” would come out something like “You will be here later.” and if dad (or pop maybe) says that, you’d better be where he wanted you to be when he was expecting it, or there would be hell to pay later.
So tell me again how ya’ll is you all. Go ahead, explain it again. I’m from here, got plenty of time.
Editor’s note. When I first penned this short piece, I was riffing on the image alone. I got so much pushback over the correct spelling of ya’ll and what it really means that the article stuck in my head for years and prompted me to update it with a later, much longer, piece that went into the details of why these regional variations in English show up. All good writing is an evolutionary experience.