Saturday, April 21, 2007

Y'all Come!

Garrison Keillor is bringing his radio show, A Prarie Home Companion, to Columbus, Georgia for a live broadcast. I get a big kick out of the PHC show. Guy Noir, Lake Wobegon, Powdermilk Biscuits, good music, jokes... While visiting the PHC website I happened onto Russ Ringsak's column, Gruntled. Here's a little of what he wrote:
April 20, 2007

For what it's worth, I've been told that "y'all" is singular. The plural is "all y'all." We're going to Columbus, Georgia, next week, and I understand that for travelers it's good form to try to speak, if even in just a few small snippets, the native language. I'm looking forward to it. Hoping to pick up a few more words.

As many of you know, that set me off. The misuse of "y'all" drives me up the wall! So I had to write Russ:

Dear Russ,

I'm right glad y'all are coming to Columbus. If I was as rich as those fellows you talked about I'd pay the $120 bucks for a pair of tickets (and the tank of gas it'd take to get to Columbus and back) to see y'all. I have enjoyed hearing the show for many years, and I guess that's how I'll keep on perceiving it. I did see the movie and got a kick out of it.

Now you may have noticed that I used the second person plural personal pronoun "y'all" a couple of times in that first paragraph. It's a useful word that I learned on my Mama's knee 60 years ago.

When I was about eight or nine my granddaddy, a barber who liked to own the latest gadgets, bought himself a brand new TV, and he gave his old one to my daddy and our world changed a lot. I got to hear folks who talked different from my folks. Not different like the big house folks in town, or the poor folks on the farm, but seriously different. People from Brooklyn and Minneapolis and other exotic places. I noticed that a lot of those people don't know the second person plural personal pronoun at all.

The TV showed lots of old movies and lots of old movies are set in the south, but I guess very few old movie actors were from the south. The actors who played southerners would put on such gosh-awful imitations of southern accents that it would make your skin crawl. They seemed to think that if you'd just throw in a whole lot of double negatives, honey-chiles, and y'alls, you'd conquer the dialect. Their worst crime -- like fingernails down a blackboard -- was the use of the second person plural personal pronoun in place of second person singular personal pronoun. That's just plain stupid. No self-respecting, reasonably intelligent Southern person would do that.

It is true that occasionally a person might use the term "all y'all" much as we might in informal speech use a double negative - for emphasis.

Look back at the first paragraph. Being a Yankee, you might have thought when I said I was glad y'all are coming that I was only glad that you are coming to Columbus. Now you know I'm glad that you and Garrison and Tom and Tim and Mr. Noir and that barking boy and any-hitchhikers-you-pick-up-along-the-way are coming. It's good for business and will give some entertainment to all the folks rich enough to attend and all the rest of us listening on the radio.

So, what I'm trying to tell you is, no matter what fool thing you've heard about the term "y'all", it is, exclusively, the second person plural personal pronoun. The boy that barks will tell you. He's from Georgia. Of course he's one that will mess with you it you don't watch out.

I hope y'all have a ball down here! Eat some barbecue but don't let somebody pawn off beef or chicken on you. Barbecue is pig. If you eat some grits for breakfast, do it right for mercy's sake. Ask somebody else. I don't want to have to get into that subject, too.

Say hi to Garrison for me.

Yours very truly,

Terrell* Shaw

* Nowadays some folks are bad about screwing up my first name by putting the emphasis on the second syllable [TuhRELLE]. Don't do it! The accent is on the first syllable: "TEHrul". Lord, I didn't know this note was going to get so complicated.

Well, I hope I was some help to the old boy.

Late Bulletin:
Ol' Russ found my missive so helpful that he responded by offering me, pending availability, two of his comp tickets to the show! Brannon is singing at a friend's wedding that night, but I'll just have to go hear her sing (and hug the bride) at the rehearsal-- I don't want to miss free tickets to A Prairie Home Companion! I swanie! All y'all Yankees have moved up a mite in my estimation. I am no longer disgruntled, but as pleasantly gruntled as a freshly slopped hog!

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