Youse pedants are gonna love this post

I was recently discussing pronouns with a close friend. (Don’t you just wish you were my friend? Constant conversational parties around here. PRONOUNS. WOOT.)

It started with a discussion of gender-neutral third person singular pronouns – traditionally ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘it’, but with a recent (arguably) addition of ‘they’.

We digressed, and moved on to other pronouns. (Conversational party. WOOT.) And we inevitably made it to ‘you’.

She decried the use of ‘youse’ (or ‘yous’, or ‘yas’) for the second person plural pronoun, and said it would never be accepted.

I mentioned it had already made it to the dictionary.

youse

We had the usual conversation after this. HOW COULD THEY? How could they deface the English language with such an inclusion?

I gave the usual reasons. Dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive. The usage note clearly states that this is ‘non-standard’ use, which is dictionary code for ‘people will laugh at you if you use this word’ or ‘CAUTION: use of this term may have boganic undertones’.

We’ve all heard ‘youse’, we all understand what it means, and if we’re truly honest with ourselves, we’ve all probably said it at least once in our lives, even if it was in a supposed-to-be-ironic sense. Ironic or not, usage is usage, and meaning shifts and acceptance take time.

But she wasn’t having a bar of it.

I shared the image on Instagram and Facebook. I got some great reactions. So great I just had to share a few.

There were the outraged:

  • Noooooooooooooooooooooo! My eyes are bleeding! (Rebecca)
  • I had to check the date, to make sure youse wasn’t pulling an April fools’ day joke on me. (Raychael)

There were those who appreciated the need, but rejected the actual word:

  • Nope. But agree we need a plural version of ‘you’. But it shouldn’t be ‘youse’ *shudder* (Lauren)
  • I see the need for it, but I honestly don’t like how it sounds. (Desi)

And there were those who accepted it (and even thought it genius!):

  • I think we need it. Most other languages have a plural you. (Joyce)
  • Tu, tus (Spanish),
    You, youse (English).
    Maybe bogans are just Latin scholars in disguise. (Kate)

My two cents? Anyone who knows my linguistic background can probably guess. I love it. I will never, ever use ‘youse’ non-ironically. But I love that speakers of English filled this gap in our language with a word that makes sense. Why invent something unrelated to the current term when the usual convention for creating a plural in English is to add an ‘s’?

And my favourite part is when the ‘s’ isn’t plural enough. Then we get second person plural pronoun phrases like ‘all of youse’ and ‘youse guys’. Usually with some extra syllables for clarity. YOUSE GUUUUUUUUUUUYS.

*contented sigh* I love English. And if your sarcasm detector is buzzing, turn it off. I mean it. I. Love. English. All of it.

Even the ‘ugly’ bits.

 

What’s your view on ‘youse’? Clever? Abominable? A necessary evil?

Comments

  1. says

    I grew up in the American South, where we have a similar word – y’all. It’s a contraction of “you all.” People also laugh at “y’all,” but like you with “youse,” I’ve always loved it for being a cheeky upstart that fills a void in the language.

  2. Mel Roworth says

    Cringe! I just can’t help it. I cringe every.single.time.
    Probably because it’s almost always used along with other boganic faux pas.
    “Did house see what I just done?”

    • says

      Fair enough! I think when it’s combined with other ‘bogan’ words (and possibly with a broad accent?) is when you get the strongest negative reaction to it.

  3. Angie says

    I’m convinced it’s our accent. We all sound just a teensy bit drunk, even when we try to annunciate correctly.

    From now on I’m claiming tee-totaler status rather than boganitis!

  4. says

    I grew up in a very working class family. Neither of my parents continued school after they turned 14 (or less) and I still remember a snobby aunt going mad at me (when I was in my final year of high school) for saying ‘youse’.

    It was memorable cos then I went away to Uni with lots of private school kids and they teased me (nicely) about the same thing. I NEVER EVER EVER ‘youse’ it now. #sorrynotsorry

    • says

      Oh, that annoys me. That’s why, although I notice ‘errors’ and the like, I never point them out unless it’s an official document or it has actually impacted on my understanding of the message.
      I remember being ridiculed for mispronouncing ‘vale’ at a funeral. I’d only ever seen the word written. Instead of realising that a) at least I knew the word at all and b) I WAS AT A FUNERAL AND PROBABLY NOT IN THE MOOD, someone decided to put me down. Just. Ugh.

  5. says

    The first time I heard ‘youse’ was when I came to Australia 11 years ago. I cringed. Hearing people use ‘youse’ has always made me cringe. I cannot bring myself to use it. Plural for you is ‘you both’ or ‘three of you’ or ‘you all’.
    I hadn’t realised it had made it to the dictionary though…honestly thought it was Aussie slang!

    • says

      It is! (Although not always – there are variations of it all over the place, and the thought is that we got it from our Irish ancestors.) But slang is still in the dictionary. x

  6. says

    I always love reading your word nerd and grammar posts Em. You’re my new fave Aussie blogger! (Especially the teacher in me), although I teach reception (prep) so pretty much my job is all about the alphabet.
    Hmmm, am very aware of my grammar whilst writing this comment

  7. says

    Not on point, but can’t we just use ‘he’ instead of ‘he or she’. I’m a lawyer and ‘he’ is always defined to mean ‘he or she’. I get it, the need to not be inclusive/not sexist. But gee legislation is clunky now.

    • says

      I’ll respectfully disagree with you on that one. I love the ‘Man who has it all’ account on Twitter and Facebook – by flipping the terms to be female-centric instead of male-centric, you see how many assumptions are loaded in the single gender term.
      That said, I’m happy with ‘they’ instead of ‘he or she’.

  8. Kit@lifethroughthehaze says

    Why do we need always evolve language. Sure if there is something that a current word doesn’t exist for but do we really need ‘youse’. You is both singular and plural.

    I despair sometimes.

    • says

      Ah, yes, but everything evolves naturally. ‘You’ is both singular and plural, but used to be just the plural form. So it’s already evolved.
      (I hope the despair is easing, but I probably just made it worse!)

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