More about the Use of Ye

use-of-the-word-ye-in-Appalachia

There was much discussion about the use of the word ye in the comments on last Saturday’s “Overheard” post.  A few folks said they commonly used or heard the word used as a thank you as in “thank ye or thank ye kindly.” You can jump back and read all the comments if you missed them, but I wanted to share one of them with you. It was left by Michael Montgomery compiler and author of the “Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English”.

Yes, the KJV uses YE frequently, but only in the plural (with THOU and THEE as singular), but that usage comes from England. While published in 1611, the KJV represent the language of England as of about 1500. Appalachian YE is the pronunciation of YOU in both singular and plural and represents the speech of Scotland and Ulster with the Scotch-Irish. As part of my research in Belfast, I found a 1737 letter written back to a minister in County Tyrone in which he implores YE AW to “come over” to America (he seems to have been around New York). Barbara, I agree with you that YE ALL slides easily into Y’ALL. I wrote an article about the same idea nearly 30 years ago and argued that YE AW, not YOU ALL, was the primary source of Y’ALL.
Tipper will find more information in a book I recently sent her.

The book Michael was referring to is his book “From Ulster To America The Scotch-Irish Heritage of America English”.  It is a delightful book and if you’re interested in the language of Appalachia I highly recommend you get one. Here’s what the book says about ye:

ye, yae pron You (singular and plural), in unstressed positions, especially as the direct object of a verb or the object of a preposition, less often as a subject. [OED ye pron 3 in objective case c1449-; DOST ye pron 2 ‘in objective use as a direct object’ c1550-; SND (at ye A) ‘the original nominative has been retained in Scottish … and has also been transferred to use as the objective case’]

ULST:

1737 Murray Letter Ye ken I had but sma Learning when I left ye.
1840 Bleakley Poems 83 I ken the word yae aften read.
1919 MacGill Glenmornan 190 “I supoose ye yerself was like me one time’, said the girl.
1936 White Mrs. Murphy 162 You can’t deny you were hidin’ it from me, the both of ye.
1964 Braidwood Ulster/Elizabethan English 88 The objective ye survives in Ulster thankee.
1983 Marshall Drumlister 28 ‘I’ll let ye know the reason’, said John with scornful look.
1983 Pepper Ulster Knowledge 18 May a doctor never earn a pound aff ye.
2000 Fenton Hamely Tongue 239 ye = you (unstressed).

U.S.:

1913 Kephart Our Sthn High 84 I knowed I couldn’t’ roust ye no other way.
1939 Hall Coll If you call [a turkey] too much, you’ll never get one to ye.
Ibid. Get ye chairs. Git ye two moles.
1957 GSMNP 23:2:28 [If] a neighbor wouldn’t help ye, he wasn’t considered a neighbor.
1965 West Git Tard in Hills The ‘ye’ for ‘you’ is an interesting elision with such expressions as ‘tell ye’, ‘tax ye’. The sound is not ‘yee’, but ‘yi’ (the ‘i’ pronounced as in ‘it’).

“From Ulster To America The Scotch-Irish Heritage of America English”

I’m going to keep my ears open for the word ye to see how many different ways I hear the word used in my area of Appalachia.

Tipper

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    February 8, 2018 at 8:30 am

    My friend Carmel in western Ireland used ye regularly. Also greet for great, and crack to mean a good time. Around here I hear–and sometimes use–ye in conversation to, especially thank ye. My very proper English mother never said it, though. My husband, born and raised in southern WV does not say it either. He does say yall, never you’ns. I’ve only heard that from people north of the Mason-Dixon. But it like other hear it down South. Surprising.

    I love word origins. Have several books I refer to constantly, and just find it fascinating.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    February 7, 2018 at 10:40 pm

    Great Post! Great Comments!

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    February 7, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    Well, I missed last Saturday’s ‘ye’ articles and comments.?
    ‘Ye’ makes me think of those who say ye and thee for YOU; maybe Shakespeare and the Bible.
    In England ‘ye olde” whatever makes ye want to in and see what they have to sell..
    (All those English and French words have too many unpronounced vowels.)
    I think when I say “ya think” , it’s yA not ye ??
    We in Appalachia sure don’t use too many unnecessary letters when speaking.
    How we our words tho are ourn.

  • Reply
    Ken
    February 7, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    Tipper,
    I been thinkin’ alot about the word “Ye” and I guess I say “thank ye” without noticing. We didn’t use the word much in our family growing up, except in Church, reading the Bible.

    My Daddy only had a 7th grade education, but he learned to read the Bible really good and was the
    Sunday School Superintendent for many years. I guess that’s why all 6 of us brothers never drank,
    but we used fowl language at times.

    I went and opened up Church with daddy in the dead of Winter and it was Cold as the Dickens, but
    Daddy would put Coal in the ole heater and pretty soon it was comfortable. After it’d get warm, we’d walk back and get Momma. Those were reflections I will never forget. …Ken

  • Reply
    Charline Venturini
    February 7, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    I read with interest your last post on ‘ye’; so familiar, I never thoght much about it. Both my parents and grandparents used it(mostly my mother and her family) though they grew up in different parts of the South, with Appalachian roots. Mom didn;t use the term at work or in social situations, but with family, as in, “Ye Daddy’ll be home pretty soon.”
    Michael M.’s research findings make sense, as to the Scots and Scots-Irish influence. This is an enlightening study and discussion- thanks again!

  • Reply
    Howland
    February 7, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    The last instannce that you gave, “tell ye’, ‘tax ye’. The sound is not ‘yee’, but ‘yi’ (the ‘i’ pronounced as in ‘it’).” is very familiar to me and was common usage in the Northland, where I was born and raised; sorta like “Thank yeh, I’m tellin’ yeh; considering that the pronunciation of the example ‘yi’ as given and ‘yeh’ are reasonably close to each other..

  • Reply
    Papaw
    February 7, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    I have always considered y’all as flatlander speak for you’ns (prounounced /u-ns/ not yuns). Same with yourn and y’all’s. Mine and yourn just makes sense to me. Yourn of course is singular or plural. If something is jointly owned by a group that includes me, it is “airs” although I occasionally hear our’n.
    “Everthing on this side of the creek is airs and the far side is yourn. You’ns stay over there and we’ll stay over here.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 7, 2018 at 10:56 am

    Tipper,
    LIB=Well, I’ll be!
    Do you remember that joke…about a discussion between two mountain farmers one of which was showing off his new spotted pigs…
    1. MRPigs 2. MRnotPigs 1. OSMRPigs 2.LIBMRpigs!
    The joke went something like this…way before the new shortened text with letters. It was a take on mountain folks that only need letters of the alphabet to speak….
    So…LIB…I’m going to me a book like that so I can keep and read about YE!
    Thanks Tipper,
    Great post as usual…

    • Reply
      Papaw
      February 7, 2018 at 11:16 am

      Ever heered thisun?

      Seebil dar dago. Thous and busses inaro. Nojo dems trux. Summit cowsand summit dux.

      • Reply
        b. Ruth
        February 7, 2018 at 4:10 pm

        Papaw…
        Is the sayin’… See Bill there they go. Thousand buses in a row. No Joe them is trucks. Some is cows and some is ducks? Now sure…let me know for sure…Love it..
        Thanks Papaw…
        PS…Are you Ed?

        • Reply
          Papaw
          February 7, 2018 at 6:00 pm

          Yep that’s the sayin. Sorta looks like Spanish or French don’t it.
          And yep I’m Ed but my wife calls me Edwin, my kids call me Daddy and the Grandboys call me Papaw. I answer better to Papaw!

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    February 7, 2018 at 10:55 am

    My grand father always said thank ye.
    It was common among the older folks in the the area we’re from. It makes perfect sense to me that it carries over from Scots-Irish.
    I thank ye Tipper for finding cool stuff like this to ponder over!

  • Reply
    a.w. griff
    February 7, 2018 at 8:46 am

    I used to work with some men from s.oh. and they didn’t say y’all or you all, but said youns. Farther north they said you guys.

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    February 7, 2018 at 8:30 am

    Fascinating!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 7, 2018 at 8:23 am

    Intriguing. I just looked and the KJV has (if I counted correctly) 11 uses of “ye all” and 13 uses of “you all” referring to people. My electronic bible won’t search of just “you” for some unaccountable reason. But it will search of “ye” and says there are 3,042, although that picks out the “ye” in, for example, “year”. What I’m puzzled by though is that “ye”, “you” and/or “your” are used in the same sentence.

  • Reply
    a.w. griff
    February 7, 2018 at 8:19 am

    In e.ky. I’ve heard ye, ya, and yuh. Didn’t hear y’all much growing up, but heard you all and youns.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 7, 2018 at 7:17 am

    I love our Appalachian language. I had a friend, Neal, in the hospital I used to work in, Neal was from upstate New York and he was fond of saying to me, “Cindy, your country is showing!” in response to some colorful expression I had just put forth. I would just laugh in response, but made no effort to change my speech.
    The really interesting thing about this whole issue of language is that it is never static it is always evolving as new people arrive from different parts of the town, country or the world. In fact, WE are evolving from one day to the next, nothing ever stays the same, it keeps life interesting! Tipper, one of the things I love about this wonderful Blind Pig Blog is it’s ability to document this evolution!

  • Reply
    Sheryl PaulI
    February 7, 2018 at 7:02 am

    Ye all to y’all makes a lot of sense. My family history is out of NC. One side is decidedly English and the other Scots/Irish. I love hearing the word origons.

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