You and You and Youse and Ya’ll

CJX00037 Suppose you hollered out, “I want you to come down off those monkey bars!” What child are you talking to? Or are you talking to all of them? Hmmm …

The good old pronoun ‘you’ has a problem. It is used for both singular and plural. Everyone hates that except linguists. Or maybe they do to. I do not know any linguists. It is unnatural to call a bunch of people ‘you’ so the speakers of English have worked out fixes. In the South, it becomes ‘you all’ or ‘ya’ll’ and I have heard Northerners, mainly in New York, say ‘youse’ or ‘yez’ to mean more than one individual. But all of those are considered ‘bad English’ and unusable in acceptable writing and conversation. People think you are an ignoramus if you use them.

Language is a churning, alive thing. It seems like this would have fixed itself by now.

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