What You'all think about the second person plural in English?

11 Jan 2005 // books

So I spent me some time in Texas, home on the range, dry desert heart-land. It's a rather pretty place, in a dry-scrub wide-blue-sky kind-of-way. The Texans are nice and friendly. Only one of the three Texan homes I visited had a gun display case next to their doorway. A beautiful mahogany case containing five beautiful shotguns. People who say Texan are gun-crazy are just pussies.

More than one Texan remarked to me how similar Australians are to them. They have a point. The dry desert feel of the land is similar - I can see the same squint of eyes under the harsh Texan sun. Texans and Australians are laconic in demeanour, and fond of loud straight-talking (not like those slippery city-slickers of the Eastern Seaboard). They are both connected to the land, though more in affect than in substance. Cowboy hats and spurs in Texas, Drizabone coats and bull-whips in Australia.

I rather like the slow-shuffle of the Texan drawl. And perhaps the most distinctive of the Texan dialect is the proliferation use of You'all. What a wonderful word. In English, there is no second person plural, and it's much the poorer for it. Elaborate constructions are needed to indicate the plural from the singular. In Australian, we use the rather clumsy Yous, which kind of slides around the mouth like treacle. Compare that that to the rounded cadence of You'all, with the crisp clean 'l' that embraces all the people you are addressing.

I, for one, would support the official adoption of You'all as the English second person plural.