A reviewer recently commented that she really enjoyed one of my books but took issue with my use of you’uns instead of y’all. Now, in both of our defenses, I’d like to point out that she thought the story was set in Wise, Virginia. Now, that’s a real place where locals probably do say “y’all.” My story, however, is set in the fictional Wise, West Virginia, where locals definitely say you’uns.
So, what’s the difference between the two colloquialisms?
Growing up I knew lots of folks in central WV who said you’uns. As in, “You’uns come on in for supper.” Or, “Are you’uns going to the swimmin’ hole today?”
Then I moved to South Carolina and fell in love with y’all. And, honestly, I’m much more likely to say y’all than you’uns. It just trips off the tongue.
It’s true that you can use the terms interchangeably. They mean, essentially, the same thing. And yet, there are nuances to each.
Here’s a definition of you’uns from urbandictionary.com – “A term used in southern and central Appalachia and adjacent areas to address a group of people.” Or, to be more specific, “An expression used to describe a group of people that can fit into the cab of a 1964 Dodge Stepside truck.”
I do enjoy specificity.
The definition for y’all, on the other hand, is simply, “a contraction for you all.” The urban dictionary does go on to make the point that the term is NOT singular and using it to refer to one person will point you out as a non-southerner faster than a chicken on a junebug.
I think the main difference is, well, regional. Both terms are a way to refer to a group of people without having to expend the breath and energy required to utter two words–you ones or you all. The main difference is that y’all has achieved a higher acceptance level in general usage. It might even be kind of cool.
So I suggest it’s time to lift you’uns up to the same mainstream status. My challenge to you (no, you’uns–assuming there’s someone other than my mom reading this) is to work it into conversation at least once in the coming week. Do it. Then come back here and tell me how it went.