Monday, May 21, 2012

Hey y'all!

When I was in college, I decided I didn't like two things that I said: y'all (the widely accepted Southern form of the 2nd person plural) and warsh (the word wash with the intrusive r).

Warsh (other forms include dishwarsher, George Warshington, car warsh, etc) didn't really both me until I got to college.  Actually, for the most part, I didn't even realize that I was doing it or what I was doing.  My mom said warsh.  My dad said warsh.  My brother and sister said warsh.  It was normal to me.

It's wasn't until I took a Linguistics course on American dialects that I learned of the linguistic phenomenon known as the intrusive r, which is prominently found in the midwest, specifically in the word wash, that I even realized that I did it.

Now, as I've mentioned, I didn't grow up in the midwest, though I live here now.  I did live briefly in the midwest as a wee-one, but mostly I grew up on the east coast, because my dad was in the Navy.  (Generally Navy dudes have to live near water.) But environmental influences are only one factor for determining one's pronunciation.  A very influential factor is the pronunciation of your family.  My mom is from St. Louis and my dad is from Indianapolis.  They both exhibit the intrusive r, and thus all three of their vagabond children picked it up as well.

It wasn't that hard to purge my pronunciation of the intrusive r.  I just thought very consciously whenever I said the word wash and very deliberately did not include an r.  It probably sounded a little like "waaaash".  It took a few months, but then it was gone, and it's never come back.  Not even since moving to the midwest 10 years ago.

Now the y'all...

I have always been aware of the y'all.  Y'all is synonymous with southern living.  "Howdy y'all"  "Y'all come back now y'hear".  Everyone knows if you want to sound southern, all you have to do is say y'all.  Just like everybody knows if you want to sound like you are from Boston, all you have to do is say "Cawfee tawk" or "Pak the cah".

But for a long time, I did not want to embrace my southern roots.  Whenever someone would hear I was from Virginia, they'd say "oh, a southern girl" or "oh, yea, I can hear it in your accent."  But the thing was, I didn't feel like a southern girl and I definitely didn't have a southern accent, well, a traditional southern accent anyway.  You see, when you live in rural areas of Virginia you do tend to follow the linguistic features of southern dialects, however when you live in an urban area like I grew up, especially one populated by military personnel...who come from all over the U.S., you do not.

Between Virginia Beach not being a heavy southern dialect influence, and both of my parents being a heavy midwestern dialect influence, my accent usually fell much more inline with the North midland (midwestern) accent....except for y'all.  I most definitely said y'all.  A lot.

In my sophomore year of college, I went to a midwestern cousin's wedding.  I hadn't seen that part of my family in almost a decade, not since my grandma had passed away.  And know what I noticed?  No one said y'all.  They all said you guys.  Right then, I decided that I was was going to purge myself of y'all, just like I had of warsh.  In fact, you could say I was going to wash y'all out of my dialect.  (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)  And I did.

And for about 10 years, it stuck.  In fact, I'm pretty sure it would have stuck forever, just like warsh/wash has, except a funny thing happened.  The longer I've been living in the midwest, the more I miss my coastal southern home.  The more I missed hearing the "Hey y'all".  So much so, that I consciously decided to replace my you guys with y'all.  And just like when I trained myself to stop saying it, pausing and mentally correcting myself to say you guys instead, I was now pausing and correcting myself to say y'all.

But unlike training myself to say you guys, the reverting to y'all thing took much much less effort and much less time.  In fact, it came back so easily, it was almost like it'd never even been gone.  Like it had just been sitting there in my brain, waiting to be re-released all of this time. So, I guess I really am a southern girl after all.  It just took being away for a few years to really appreciate my home and my southern roots.

I guess what they say is true...absence really does make the heart grow fonder, y'all.

P.S. My little grammar lesson for the day: It's y'all.  Not ya'll.  Y'all is a contraction for you all.  Ya'll is a contraction for ya will, which is not a thing.

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