Thou shalt take heed

Something perhaps lost in translation over the millennia (well, two of them, anyway):

[J]ust about any time I teach from the Scriptures I have to point out a place where the English Bible says “you,” but the original Hebrew or Greek indicates you plural rather than you singular. This means the original author was addressing to a group of people, but a modern English reader can’t detect this because in common English we use “you” for both singular (“you are awesome”) and plural (“you are a team”). This often leads modern readers to think “you” refers to him or her as an individual, when in fact it refers to the community of faith.

Here in Texas (and in the Southern US more generally), I tell my audience that we have a perfect equivalent to the original Greek/Hebrew second person plural: “y’all” the contraction of “you all.”

In some particularly Suthun climes, it’s even more subtle than that: there is Singular (“you”), Specific Plural (“y’all”), More Generalized Plural (“all y’all”). This inevitably baffles New Yorkers and such, who are used to constructions like “youse.” However, with a little practice, anypony can get used to a new set of pronouns.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)


  1. jsallison »

    4 June 2013 · 8:17 pm

    And the ever so quaint ‘alla youse guys’.

  2. Roger Green »

    5 June 2013 · 8:31 am

    I’ve long known that the language has failed us.

  3. Lynn »

    5 June 2013 · 8:34 am

    If everyone would just stick to the King James Version we wouldn’t have these misunderstandings. (not that we wouldn’t still have other misunderstandings) Better yet, everyone should just learn to read Greek and Hebrew the way God intended.

    (For any humor challenged out there who might not be able to tell, I’m just being a smart-ass here)

  4. McGehee »

    5 June 2013 · 9:12 am

    “Y’all” is not the only Southern construction for the second person plural. There’s also “yinz,” or “you-uns.”

  5. Tatyana »

    5 June 2013 · 1:02 pm

    All y’all? alla youse guys? YINZ?

    *multiple roll-eye*

    Btw, Russian has the same arrangement; that’s about one thing it has in common with English (I remember since I didn’t have to re-learn it) – and in both languages the addressee (pl. or sing) is supposed to be divined by context. But I’d guess in regards to Bible it doesn’t really make a difference. One sinner is just a part of a bigger sinner community, and y’all need instruction how to behave youse selves, no?

  6. CGHill »

    5 June 2013 · 1:51 pm

    Damned right. (Or rightly damned.)

  7. fillyjonk »

    5 June 2013 · 3:08 pm

    Have you seen this map? Seems apropos.

  8. Tatyana »

    5 June 2013 · 8:28 pm

    FJ: that’s a great link
    Look at this one…Boston? BOSTON? [ha]x3!

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