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There appears to be a misconception amongst Americans (and many non-Americans) that the phrase "y'all", as employed by most (if not all) of the residents of the Deep South of the United States of America, is but a simple contraction of "you all". Most (if not all) of the very same Deep South residents also believe this to be the case.
There is, in fact, no such phrase as "y'all". It seems that the noble colonists now resident in
the US of A, and particularly those in the Deep South, have been labouring under a
misapprehension for many, many years.
Many years ago a local New Orleans fisherman met up with one of his colleagues as they were on their way to work one morning. Knowing that his friend's boat had been giving problems, the one politely enquired of the other "How is your yawl?". The response was, of course, "My yawl is fine, thank you. How is your yawl?". This became something of a ritualistic greeting between the two friends. In fact it came to be used more as a general enquiry of each other's health, rather than of that of their vessels. Further, its use very soon spread to their friends and acquaintances, and then of course to the local populace.
However, partly because of the alliterative nature of the phrase "your yawl", and partly because of the strange, almost unintelligible accent which had by that time developed in the Deep South, the exchange very soon became contracted to "How yawl?" - triggering the Pavlovian response "I'm good. How yawl?". (Incidentally, this contraction, as practiced by residents of the Deep South, is known to linguistic experts as "Drawling the Yawl".) Visiting foreigners from New York, upon hearing this exchange, wrongly interpreted the "yawl" portion to mean "you all" or "y'all".
So there you have it.
Yawl have a good day.
Copyright © 2001 Barry Downs