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How Did “Y’All” Start?

Perhaps the most well-known slang terms comes to us via friendly Southerners. The pronoun “y’all,” which is so widely accepted that it appears in the dictionary, is an informal substitute for you or “you all.” But how did it start and reach such widespread acceptance?

Recently, New York Times Bestselling author Gary Kinder wrote about the “Story of Y’all” on WordRake ( It’s a lighthearted look at the word, Southern culture and grammar. If you’re from the South, you’ll especially enjoy the read, which includes plenty of Southern wisdom.

Kinder, who hails from the South, says his Pappy told him that the word evolved from saying “you all” so fast that a natural blend occurred. He says it started hundreds of years ago, a super-contracted word (with two letters missing instead of one, like we’re used to…). Further, Kinder says y’all was accepted conversation way before grammarians came along. And thanks to technology, the word also has joined the ranks of Internet slang (in all caps: YALL), right up there with BFF and LOL.

Mostly, y’all serves plenty of purposes, from being a singular or plural pronoun (How did y’all meet?, but also “Y’all get in here and wash up for supper” to call in only one child from outside). Adding a possessive to the pronoun is even easier, say Southerners. For example, we often see confusion on the possessive form of proper names (James’, Jameses? Jim’s!) but with y’all it’s all so simple: “Is this y’all’s house?”

The true origin of the word is muddy, so you can certainly acknowledge the colorful history of Kinder’s Pappy. It’s said that the Oxford English Dictionary first recorded “you all” for use in a sentence in 1824, and the contraction in 1856. Some academics disagree with Pappy altogether, attributing the word to Scottish-Irish origins, beginning as “ye aw.” Read more about the history of the phrase in this article ( by another Southern native, Cameron Hunt McNabb.

Mostly, have no fear. Spell checkers typically correct “y’all” automatically if you type it. And our tip cards, coaching, consulting and online writing courses give you practical tips on use of slang and business jargon. “Y’all” give us a call at 425-485-3221 to find out more or visit our website.

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