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Saturday, February 18, 2006

You and yous in English Bibles

Many have decried the loss of singular vs. plural in English second person pronouns, a difference which used to be marked in the obsolete pronouns, singular thee and plural ye. Of course, those who use the KJV Bible still hear and read those old pronouns. But English speakers have never lost their sense that there needs to be a way to make it clear when we are talking to one person or more than one, just as there is in many other languages. I'm sure that everyone who visits this blog has heard the plurals "y'all" and "you guys." A number of English dialects have speakers who use a singular "you" and a plural "yous."

Language change is one linguistic constant!

Perhaps someday one of the English second plural pronouns already in use will be accepted enough by the "gatekeepers" of our language that English Bibles will once again have a grammatical difference between singular and plural second person. When that time comes, I wonder if we will debate that revision in English Bibles as much as we are currently debating what English pronoun to use for singular third person generics.


At Sat Feb 18, 12:18:00 PM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

I wonder too, Wayne. A good question!

It seems like we evangelical Christians, especially on the more conservative side, often want to live in denial of culture and changes that occur through culture.

If the you/yous change came through a side of culture (maybe with accompanying reasons to their cause) that are considered anathema to them, then one would think such change in Bibles would meet up with the same kind of resistance we see against the gender changes.

I just don't see culture as only evil. But a mixture of God's image along with human falleness. Often interwoven. And we can so easily fail to see the good that is of God (of his "creation"), as a result, I think.

At Sat Feb 18, 03:10:00 PM, Blogger Brandon Wason said...

My favourite has always been "yous(e) guys" with a thick Jersy accent.

At Sat Feb 18, 04:12:00 PM, Blogger Steven said...

Dear Mr. Leman,

We all in the South have known for a long time that this was necessary, we've just been waiting for y'all to come around to it. :-D



At Sat Feb 18, 04:25:00 PM, Blogger Joe said...

This is an area where us have wondered about for a long time.

At Sat Feb 18, 04:37:00 PM, Blogger Ben Martin said...

My money is on "you all" as the new plural second person pronoun, at least in written English.

Alternatively, what about the formation of a new second person SINGULAR pronoun. I would bet on "ya" there, but that also has some stigma linguistically.

Incidentally, I'm from the Chicago area, and I say "you guys" (no extra s), but then, I'm from the suburbs.

At Sat Feb 18, 06:06:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

In Canada, I also say "you guys". Never "you gals". "Guys" has definitely broken the gender barrier for me.

At Sat Feb 18, 06:44:00 PM, Blogger KAT said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Sat Feb 18, 06:51:00 PM, Blogger Dave said...

In my Greek class at Candler (in Atlanta) we usually used "y'all." But we would argue about whether to spell it "y'all," or "ya'll!"

At Sun Feb 19, 05:00:00 AM, Blogger Ruud Vermeij said...

Be glad that you(s) in English don't have two forms of "you", a polite/respectfull one and one expressing familiarity. In Dutch we have.
"U" is the polite form (singular and plural, on the internet also used as shortcut for the English you :-)); "je/jij" (singlular) and jullie (plural) as the form expressing familiarity.
Imagine what kind of discussions you can get on translating the Bible...

At Mon Feb 20, 06:26:00 PM, Blogger Matt Royal said...

I have long longed for an English translation that respected y'all...
or at least gave marginal notes that clarified the distinction when it was not contextually obvious which word would fit.

At Tue Feb 21, 02:24:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Matt, you can always go back to KJV, which distinguishes "thou" and "you"! And there are some modern versions which attempt to mark singular and plural "you" differently. Others footnote some cases where the singular or plural is not what is expected in context.

At Tue Feb 21, 06:43:00 AM, Blogger Ruud Vermeij said...

By the way, is there data about how much of the epistels is addressed in singular or in plural?
The situation in Dutch with 'U' (singular/plural) is quite comparable to 'you' in English.
Is the new testament more individualistic or is it more focussed on the total fellowship?
(Maybe an idea for a new blog item...)


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