（Contributed by Mike）
I remember watching the opening ceremony for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Amid all the dancing and musical merriment, I remember the performers lining up to write out a welcoming message: How y’all doin?
This phrase is characteristic of American English in the southern states, and at the time, I remember laughing at it. It was silly, and I felt slightly embarrassing, as I associated this phrase with country hicks. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that this phrase (like all language variations) had a purpose.
“Y’all” is a contraction of “you” + “all”. But what does that mean? For that, we’ll need to look at how we talk about people.
first person I we
second person you you
third person he/she/it they
I think we can see the problem. In many forms of modern English, the second person singular and plural are the same. If I say “You are too loud!”, we can’t know if I’m talking to one person or many people unless we can see the situation. Enter “y’all”.
“Y’all” functions as a second person plural, so for those in the American South, “You are too loud” might be used for one person, while “Y’all are too loud” might be used for groups of people. But before y’all go and start using this word, here are some words of caution:
1. Y’all is regional: Not everyone everywhere uses this word. In fact, other variations include you all, you guys, youse, youse guys, yinz, and probably many more.
2. Y’all is less formal: It’s used to make people feel welcome, but might not be used in a formal situation.
Next time I’ll talk a little about the history of second person plural.