Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Crasis Crisis: Y'all vs. Ya'll

Last night, my husband and I met our weekly trivia group at a sports bar, and I learned a new word: crasis. It means: a contraction of two vowels (as the final and initial vowels of united words) into one long vowel, or into a diphthong (example: y'all).

What? There's a specific word that relates to one of my biggest pet peeves, and I just now learned it?

I can't stand it when I see y'all spelled ya'll. In my opinion, y'all is the combination of the phrase, typically Northern, "you all." When you take away the "ou" the apostrophe replaces it.

I'm constantly seeing references that use ya'll, and I just don't think it's grammatically correct...I think people just like the way it looks, for some reason, and don't think about the placement of the apostrophe as being a technical issue.

Just to tie this in to a book blog...Paula Deen's autobiography, edited and produced in the North, used ya'll throughout (I could barely make it through it). However, her magazine, edited and produced in the South, consistently uses y'all.

However, I recently got into a debate with a friend of my parents about this. He maintained:

The word ya'll isn't a contraction of the words "you all" as many people think. It is a word of other distinct origin, indigenous to the rural South: ye aw. This evolved in a modern-day variation of y'all, where some put the apostrophe after the "a" (ya'll). So, ya'll could be a contraction for ya all.

Also, I was raised also using ya'll as a contraction of the words "ya will" in which case the apostrophe would replace the "wi"...thus, ya'll.


I'm not at all convinced by his argument, but I'm opening this up for debate. Thoughts?

39 comments:

jaime said...

I'm in the y'all/you all camp, myself. But I don't think I've seen ya'll much.

Lisa said...

I LOVE this post! (Catchy title too!) It's about time someone addressed this! I only wish it would've been me! :) Living in the south, I always use the word in question when speaking. But I've always been confused on the spelling. I used to spell it ya'll for the longest time, until recently when I flipped thru a PAULA DEEN MAGAZINE and saw y'all. It looked better to me and, heck, Paula Deen would know, right? So, even though your friend makes a good point, I'm going with y'all.

Suey said...

I agree with y'all too. :)

Jena said...

dictionary says it's a contraction of you + all.

____Maggie said...

Y'all please, this is only a way of writing it. I have nevah and will nevah use the two words you + all together in a sentence; thus, y'all should really be considered the word yall without the fancy English mark. ;D

AshMac said...

I, too, am peeved to distraction with the use of ya'll. (Second only to my frustration with the rampant incorrect usage of the word "nauseous" instead of "nauseated.") I agree with your reasoning for the apostrophe's placement between the y and the a. I have always thought people were more comfortable using ya'll because it looks more like other contractions we're familiar with (you'll, we'll, etc.) But grammatically, y'all has GOT to be correct. Sorry parents' friend... I'm not buying it either.

Sassafrass Molly said...

Sorry to be jumping in on the conversation so late. I've been in the South all my life, and though it probably is supposed to be y'all, I've seen and written it ya'll since I was a wee little kid. I have a BA in English, HATE it when people get your / you're, its / it's, or there / their / they're wrong, but I still spell it ya'll. It's a Southern thing, I guess.

Dena Ware said...

Wikipedia says it's Y'all, and the book, Common Errors in English Usage says it's Y'all, and the publication that says it's the magazine of southern people is titled, Y'all. I believe it is case closed.

Dan said...

I know this is post is over a year old, but I came across it on a Google search when I had the same question. I was born a yankee, but have lived in the south since the choice has been mine (for about 17 years now), and have long used the word in question when speaking. When I've wanted to use it in the written form, I've always questioned the way it should be spelled. I've typically chosen to use the "ya'll" spelling, judging it to be a contraction of the colloquialism "ya" (short for you) and the word "all". My reason for doing so is that in almost every commonly used two-word contraction I can think of, the apostrphe replaces letters in the second of the two words (e.g. it's, you're, I'd, she'll, should've, didn't, etc.)

I know that the more common spelling is "y'all", but this seems to go against the "rule" for contractions. The one possible exception I can think of is "o'clock" (which is really supposedly a contraction of "of the clock" and therefore not a two-word contraction).

Since the word itself is a colloquialism and common print usage seems to support the "y'all" spelling, I suppose I'll switch, but it still seems to me that the "ya'll" spelling would be more proper.

Tracy said...

In the South, it's "ya all." In northern states, it is "you all." I think there is enough debate that either way should be considered correct, like "cancelled" and "canceled." I personally spell it "ya'll." If you want to argue it's wrong, I'd argue that "ain't" is not a contraction that could be used, either.

julie said...

To the person that included wikipedia in their list of sources - lol.

Moving on, in my book it's ya'll. Contraction of ya all. In my experience it has typically been a Yankee telling southerners that we are spelling our own slang wrong. Just my opinion.

Coffee said...
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Coffee said...

The PA Dutch folk where I live in Pennsylvania rarely say always say ya instead of you. Put a y'all here? Y'all hear?

And the folks in the City of Reading use ya'll as you will. "Ya'll let me get some of that gum, right?" speaking to one person. The apostrophe only seems to work like a conjunction similar to she'll or he'll here. Not at "all."

Hopefully our mothers and schools taught us that using y'all and ain't meant you didn't talk too good, right?

Lauren said...

I'm from Georgia. "Ya" = "You," therefore it is "you all," when contracted becomes "y'all." End of story.

laura said...

ya'll

Josiah said...

Born and raised in Texas, and whenever I see y'all, I just cringe. To me, it is, and will always be ya'll (even as my spell checker tells me I'm wrong).

Sorry spell checker, sorry dictionary, I'm sticking with ya'll.

Josh said...

I'm in the Ya'll camp, because I don't like a bunch of yankee northern editors coming in and adjusting perfectly good slang. Ya All. Ya'll. It was done wrong on purpose.

chucpresleyclubb said...

Here in my part of the GREAT American south----state of North Carolina, most everyone uses ya'll!! I'm bi, I guess because I go both ways---ya'll & y'all---LOL!! From:Chuc Presley-Clubb in the Charlotte & Gastonia area of North Carolina, U.S.A.!!

Samailantha said...

I am from Georgia. Been all over the south, so I think I know what I am saying which it is better spelled "y'all" not "ya'll". To be honest, "ya" does not look like "you" in any way. It's like you're saying "ya all". That doesn't fit right when you say it, because "ya" is more like "yes" than "you". The reason it is best when spelled "y'all" is because the "y" stands for "you", and obvioulsy you can figure out what the " 'all" stands for. It isn't that hard to see why "y'all" fits the phrase "you all" better.

Matt said...

I'm from Texas. I have always written it ya'll, and will always write it ya'll. Not because I think y' stands for ya (it doesn't, it stands for you), but simply put: I don't care what the grammatically correct version is. If I did, I would not say/write ya'll; I'd say 'you all.' And since I don't care if I'm grammatically correct when I say you all, then I should not care how I write it.

To me, ya'll is a colloquialism, and since we're quoting Wikipedia, the definition of Colloquialism is "common in everyday, unconstrained conversation, rather than in formal speech"

Lee said...

People should just speak proper English and use neither of these =)

katrinasos said...

@Lee Would you have that proper english with a side of tea and crumpets?

Texas Sailgirl said...

Please tell me you have better things to do than to decide which is the correct spelling of a word that is used as slang. No one is correct on this issue. Ya'll is used more by Southerns ie. William Faulkner, y'all is probably what spell check will tell you. However, in reality does it matter (11/12/11)? Don't you think wars, molested children (Penn State Assistant Coach), and a sagging economy are a bit more worthy of talk in my opinion. I live in Texas but, while in D.C. and NYC this month I noticed people that live in the Northern states use it as well as Southerns. So if a debate must be, use the Mason-Dixon line and spell it as you want, if ya'll is good enough for Faulkner it is good enough for me. If others what to spell it y'all, that too is okay with me. I believe communication is the point not the spelling. Now, I too have fallen into your senseless debate. Have a great day and forget it, that is what I am going to do. It is beautiful out today. God Bless

Pi Man said...

I, too, am a "transplanted Yankee." I live about 40 miles west of New Orleans (proper) and have been in LA for 35 years. I like and will continue to use "y'all" for the contraction of the words "you all," but I don't think it's actually correct (and I don't think "ya'll" is correct either). This is why: If you take (for example) the contraction of "can't," that comes from "can not," agreed? Notice the placement of the apostrophe is placed one letter before the last word, "all." So if this is how it is supposed to be, wouldn't the contraction of "you" and "all" be "youa'l"? 8^) Just havin' some fun y'all, or ya'll, or youa'l, or yawl, or... AHHHHHHHHHH!

skg said...

Obviously yet another comment is essential. For me, "y'all" = you all, and is pronounced like yawl.

Whereas I pronounce "ya'll" a bit more like "yuh all" and mean "you will".

cheers!

Miranda said...

To pi man, et al: what about don't from do not? Or wouldn't from would not? These are both just dividing the second word not into ..n't.
Hi, I'm Miranda, and I'm a fan of ya'll. haha :)

Q said...

I'm from North Carolina & have definitely seen it spelled ya'll a lot. I feel that the proper spelling should be y'all. It is my understanding that y'all is a contraction of you all. When two words are made into a contraction, the apostrophe is merely replacing the eliminated letters, such as would have - would've or should not - shouldn't. That would make you all - y'all!

Q said...

I'm from North Carolina & have definitely seen it spelled ya'll a lot. I feel that the proper spelling should be y'all. It is my understanding that y'all is a contraction of you all. When two words are made into a contraction, the apostrophe is merely replacing the eliminated letters, such as would have - would've or should not - shouldn't. That would make you all - y'all!

Q said...

I'm from North Carolina & have definitely seen it spelled ya'll a lot. I feel that the proper spelling should be y'all. It is my understanding that y'all is a contraction of you all. When two words are made into a contraction, the apostrophe is merely replacing the eliminated letters, such as would have - would've or should not - shouldn't. That would make you all - y'all!

jma said...

I love Urban Dictionary's (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=ya%27ll)
definition:
Ya'll How idiots spell y'all.

TICA MACHA said...

You+all= pronounced southern
Ya + all = Ya'll.
born and raised in the South, real south on the Gulf of Mexico side!

Debra Ann Elliott said...

This is a great debate. I live in the deep South and spell it ya'll.

Capt. Spastic said...

Ya'll or y'all are neither proper words.

It IS a slang contraction of you all. Your friend is wrong. The closest being right he COULD be is the spelling of phonetically sounding equivalent yawl, which is a small boat

B Smith said...
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B Smith said...

I'm from Arkansas and went to high school in Ohio. It is, without a doubt, "ya'll." Aside from the fact that it is originally southern slang (which means southerners decide what is and is not the "right" way to use it), there is Dan's point.
There is not a single word in the English language that has an apostrophe before 3 other letters. Ex: can't, wouldn't, shouldn't, he's, you're.
That is why "y'all" looks so weird. It's an extreme abnormality, and is just plain wrong.
[to really get southern with this, "All ya'll got it wrong, ya hear?!"]

B Smith said...

-- at least no Contractions have 3 after the apostrophe

svermill said...

Isn't the fact that "you all" is itself probably somewhat grammatically incorrect enough to render the discussion moot? Not an english major by any stretch but always look to the common sense element (ya'll)...

Busy Bees said...

I'm from Georgia and ya'll is a Southern word. The Northern version is y'all. "There is evidence that the original spelling was ya'll. . . . 19th and 20th century authors like William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and Carson McCullers used ya’ll." ~~copied from Wikipedia. So there ya go, pretty snazzy company using the proper spelling ~~don't ya'll think?

ngla said...

Ya'll need to let southerners be. Slang is slang. If this peeves you, then ya'll are probably not from the South. It is best you don't come visit because there is a whole dictionary of slang down here sure to upset you.