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Why Everyone Should Say “Y’all”

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Let’s face it - the English language isn’t perfect. Anyone who has had to learn (or teach) English can tell you that. There are seemingly random conjugations and exceptions to almost every rule. Comedian Brian Regan tells how his teacher explained one rule to him: “‘I’ before ‘E’ except after ‘C,’ and when sounding like ‘A’ as in ‘neighbor’ and ‘weigh,’ and weekends and holidays and all throughout May, and you’ll always be wrong no matter what you say!” English is weird (Hey, another exception!).

But of all the things that would be nice to change about our language, I think the one that I would most like to change would be to give English a second person plural pronoun. That means that, just like “I” becomes “we” and “he/she” becomes “they” when referring to more than one person, “you” would become something besides “you.” Southerners handle this by adding “y’all” to the English language - which is brilliant, and I think everybody should use it!

The reason why I think “y’all” is a great addition to our speech, and not a sign of backwardness or ignorance, is that English desperately needs a second person plural pronoun. Latin, its derivative languages - Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese -, also Biblical languages, Greek and Hebrew, have one, and so do many other languages. The most common way we make up for this deficiency is by saying “you guys,” “all of you,” “you all,” or something else added before or after “you” to indicate more than one person.

This is a big problem, not only because it constantly gets in the way of clear communication, but also because how we speak and how we write reflects how we think about the the world, ourselves, and others. English trains its speakers to see no distinction between addressing one person and addressing many people. We learn to see the world impersonally as “us” or “them,” instead of seeking to connect with “yous.” We see the individual “I” as supreme, so it doesn’t matter if I’m talking to “you” or “y’all,” just as long as I get across what I want to say. 

This is not the attitude of the Bible. God constantly speaks to groups of people - families, nations, tribes, churches, assemblies - and our silly English translations can only say “you” instead of the more accurate “y’all.” We then read when the Bible says “you” and then each of us think God is speaking to “me” when in fact He is speaking to “US!” For the Christian, “yous” should matter. We need to reject how our language has trained us to think and reprogram our brains to recognize the “yous’s” and the “y’all’s.” That way our faith will become less about “me” and more about “us,” less about each individual and more about the beautiful community God is building.

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