Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: y’all (1).

y’all (1). Today: Spelling. This sturdy Southernism is most logically “y’all,” not *”ya’ll.” Only the “you” of “you all” is contracted. And in modern print sources, “y’all” is ten times as common. So *”ya’ll” (which misleadingly resembles “he’ll,” “she’ll,” and “we’ll”) deserves an edit — e.g.: o “If ya’ll [read ‘y’all’] want to stink up your breath and your clothes and start forest fires and make other people sick and get heart disease and cancer . . . well, you just go right ahead.” Jim Jenkins, “Thank Goodness Smoking Was Not Addictive,” News & Observer (Raleigh), 26 May 1994, at A18. o “‘Ya’ll [read ‘Y’all’] have got to help me a lot,’ Bentley, a registered nurse at Chalmette Medical Center, told the students about class planning.” Cassandra Lane, “Nunez Nurse Students Back in Classroom,” Times-Picayune (New Orleans), 25 Feb. 1997, at A1. o “‘Geeeeeeez,’ Puck yelled from above. ‘Ya’ll [read ‘Y’all’] look like ants from up here.'” Jim Souhan, “Forever,” Star Trib. (Minneapolis), 23 May 1997, at C12. In the late 20th century, some writers began spelling the term without an apostrophe: *”yall.” See Jan Tillery & Guy Bailey, “Yall in Oklahoma,” 73 Am. Speech 257 (1998). This spelling is not yet widespread (and not recommended). Why has the spelling been so much trouble? “Y’all” is the only contraction in English in which a stressed form is contracted to an unstressed one. See Michael B. Montgomery, “A Note on Ya’ll,” 64 Am. Speech 273, 274 (1989). Language-Change Index — *”ya’ll” for “y’all”: Stage 2. *Invariably inferior form. Next: Number. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. Quotation of the Day: “A real writer learns from earlier writers the way a boy learns from an apple orchard — by stealing what he has a taste for and can carry off.” Archibald MacLeish, “On the Teaching of Writing,” in Writing in America 88, 90 (John Fischer & Robert B. Silvers eds., 1960).
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