You'uns and Might Could

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Dr. Goodword
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You'uns and Might Could

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Jun 20, 2021 3:55 pm

I just received this e-letter from Albert Skiles of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Dr. Beard,

I just read your hilariously "ackrut" compilation of Southern expressions [Glossary of Quaint Southernisms]. I grew up near San Antonio and moved to NW Arkansas when I was 22 in 1972. I can verify that there is a significant difference in accent and expressions, especially in rural areas. Here are a couple of words you'uns might could add to the list.

The further you go off of paved roads (in Madison and Newton counties) and even in some black-top territory, the more you will hear:

You'uns - "You and your kin" - I had a friend tell me just yesterday, "You'uns are welcome at our swimmin' hole anytime."

Might could - We all know you don't need both, but I hear this often:

"Well, Bob, you gonna go fishin tomorrow?"
"I'm really not sure, but I might could".

I think this term is so funny I have had it printed on a T-shirt.

Also, if you go 30 miles north and cross the Missouri line, you will be transposed big-time from the South to the Midwest in about one second. In a lot of ways you might as well be on another planet.

Thanks, and keep it up!

Albert Skiles
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Re: You'uns and Might Could

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Jun 20, 2021 4:59 pm

First of all, -un is now a suffix that converts adjectives into countable nouns in most Southern states. The fact that it historically originated as one is irrelevant. Not only is young-un the equivalent of child and kid, but I'm sure you've hear big-un, little-un, red-un, black-un, etc. I'm from Fayetteville, North Carolina and I grew up with all of these.

Now I am surprised to hear you-uns down South. That is the Pennsylvania solution to the absence of the second person plural of you. I would consider that ungrammatical in the Southern grammar. The Southern solution to the second person problem is yall, which is now spreading throughout the country. (I heard it a couple of years back in Colorado.)

As for might could, it was so natural to me that with my PhD in linguistics I used it consistently until a colleague's laughter taught me better. This is a Southern solution to the may problem.

The past tense of this word was might historically. But might took on a new meaning, indicating doubt. So Southerners began saying 'might could' to indicate less doubt than might.

Anyway, my most recent visits to my roots in rural North Carolina have been astonishing in what I'm hearing. The Southern dialect has completely disappeared down there in the younger generation. My nieces and nephews speak like educated Pennsyvanians. Black Southern dialect, which even I had difficulty understanding has vanished, too, among black youth attending integrated schools. That is a marvelous change; but I feel a bit unsettled among my young white relatives.
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phil3ip
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Re: You'uns and Might Could

Postby phil3ip » Thu Jun 24, 2021 3:25 am

When I moved to Austin, Texas in the late seventies, might could was common in the rural areas and remarked upon humorously and frequently by my colleagues at the University of Texas. It was employed to mean "maybe one could." Although used only by native Texans, It seemed a fine addition to my verbal repertoire.
I never heard "you'uns," but the panoply of "you'all" forms was another needed and surprising local variant. I especially liked to say "you'all's house."


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