What Does Y’all Mean? Talk Southern to Me Episode 2

Welcome back for your second lesson on understanding Southern figures of speech, terms, and more! Did you use “Buggy” in a sentence this week? If so, I hope that went well for you, and if not get to it!

This time we’ll be looking at the ever popular Southernism, “Y’all”.

What does y’all mean?

Talk Southern to Me Y'all

Now you might not have needed me to tell you what it MEANS, but I’m thinking you could probably use a pointer or two on the correct USAGE of y’all. It’s my self-appointed duty as a Southern woman and aficionado of words to foster your competence in using the words I highlight, and context is key. Think of me as your Southern adviser or coach.

Y’all does NOT refer to just ONE person, despite what you might hear in movies or the like. You might hear a Southerner say “How have y’all been?” to a lone individual, but it’s understood among other Southerners that the person asking is referring to the individual and his family, or other people he/she is associated with in the context of the relationship between the two people in the conversation. It’s just like saying “How’re your mama an’nem (and them) doing?”. Maybe it’s because we are a very family-oriented people on the whole, but it’s so common to ask about a person’s relatives that native Southerners implicitly understand the “y’all” isn’t being used incorrectly.

Now the usage of the phrase “Alla y’all” or “All of y’all” implies a larger group of people than just “y’all” alone. Generally it means the message applies to everyone in the group being addressed, without exclusions. Confusing I know, but context really is everything here, and a certain amount of intuitive understanding of the situation becomes relevant in cases where their could be confusion.

The biggest takeaway for a non-Southerner or anyone who uses the word “y’all” is that it means MORE THAN ONE PERSON. I’m a lifelong Alabamian raised by lifelong Alabamians who were also raised by lifelong Alabamians; I know what I’m talking about when I say that never in my 32 years of life have I heard a person use y’all to mean a lone person.

Next Tuesday be sure to stop by for our next Talk Southern to Me lesson… Pulley Bone.

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