Monday, January 4, 2010

That Ain't Right

Lookee what I's found in da dictionary t'day:
youse (yz)
pron. Chiefly Northern U.S. 
You. Used in addressing two or more people or referring to two or more people, one of whom is addressed. See Notes at you-all 1, you-uns 2.

1 Regional Note: The single most famous feature of Southern United States dialects is the pronoun y'all, sometimes heard in its variant you-all. You-all functions with perfect grammatical regularity as a second person plural pronoun, taking its own possessive you-all's (or less frequently, your-all's, where both parts of the word are inflected for possession): You-all's voices sound alike. Southerners do not, as is sometimes believed, use you-all or y'all for both singular and plural you. A single person may only be addressed as you-all if the speaker implies in the reference other persons not present: Did you-all [you and others] have dinner yet? You and you-all preserve the singular/plural distinction that English used to have in thou and ye, the subject forms of singular and plural you, respectively (thee and you were the singular and plural object forms). The distinction between singular thou/thee and plural ye/you began to blur as early as the 13th century, when the plural form was often used for the singular in formal contexts or to indicate politeness, much as the French use tu for singular and familiar "you," and vous for both plural and polite singular "you." In English, the object form you gradually came to be used in subject position as well, so that the four forms thou, thee, ye, and you collapsed into one form, you. Thou and thee were quite rare in educated speech in the 16th century, and they disappeared completely from standard English in the 18th. However, the distinction between singular and plural you is just as useful as that between other singular and plural pronoun forms, such as I and we. In addition to y'all, other forms for plural you include you-uns, youse, and you guys or youse guys. Youse is common in vernacular varieties in the Northeast, particularly in large cities such as New York and Boston, and is also common in Irish English. You-uns is found in western Pennsylvania and in the Appalachians and probably reflects the Scotch-Irish roots of many European settlers to these regions. You guys and youse guys appear to be newer innovations than the other dialectal forms of plural you. See Note at you-uns.

2 Regional Note: The form uns, derived from ones, occurs in you-uns and also young-uns, "young ones, children." The use of young-uns is common in a number of varieties of English, particularly among older, more rural speakers in Appalachian states. Ones becomes uns through the deletion of an initial (w) sound that is pronounced but not represented in the spelling of ones. Initial (w) sounds may also be deleted in vernacular Southern varieties in the verb was, as in She's here last night for She was here last night. The loss of the initial (w) on ones and was is simply an extension of the process, common in informal Standard English, whereby the initial (w) is lost from the helping verbs will and would, as in He'll go tomorrow for He will go tomorrow and He'd go if I asked him for He would go if I asked him.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2002, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

While I found their notes compelling reading, I was left with this overwhelming thought: really? Since when is youse an acceptable variant of you plural?

I know that I sometimes allow the standard use of the English language to slip when posting here, writing emails, and definitely on Facebook or Twitter (at least from what I remember).  But seriously, is the dropping of 'wi' from will and replacing the missing letters with an apostrophe, which is the standard rule for the making of a contraction, anything like dropping letters from the end of one word and the beginning of a following word, respelling, and hyphenating them to form a new word? I think not.

Or, should I say, I thik-it.

When I read this, I couldn't help but think that this must have been submitted by the same man who explained how noo-kyu-lar was an acceptable pronunciation of nuclear.  At the time, I brushed it off as inordinately and sickeningly deferential to the current President's inability to speak correctly.

Being from the Northeast, and not one to settle for a longer variant when using my vernacular speaking skills, I have never fallen prey to the use of the word youse as a plural form of you.  Now, yiz - that's another matter entirely.

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