Texas Bible Converts “You” to “Y’all”
Monday, June 3, 2013, 3:51 PM
Matthew Schmitz | @matthewschmitz
A new app called “Texas Bible” replaces “you” with “y’all” in English bible translations wherever the original language used a second-person plural. John Dyer, its creator, explains:
Just 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. . . .
It turns out there are at least 4,720 verses (2,698 in the Hebrew Bible and 2,022 in the Greek) with you plural translated as English “you” which could lead a reader to think it is directed at him or her personally rather than the Church as a community.
So I initially set out to develop a plugin for a Bible software project that would convert all “You plurals” to “Y’all” for my Bible project. I liked it so much I decided to create a Google Chrome extension that does the same thing for some popular Bible websites (youversion.com/bible.com, biblegateway.com, biblehub.com).
June 3rd, 2013 | 5:09 pm English REALLY needs a second-person plural. It’s too bad that y’all is so strongly associated with being a regional colloquialism, because it makes a good candidate.
June 3rd, 2013 | 6:47 pm Is the creator of this app from the South? I wonder because I learned, after living in South Carolina for a year and now Virginia, ‘y’all’ is singular. ‘All y’all’ is plural. 😉
June 3rd, 2013 | 9:35 pm “You” is already plural! Notice that it takes the plural form of the verb (as in “you are. . .”). The singular is “Thou.” That second person singular is preserved in other European languages (tu, du, etc.) but was strangely lost in modern English.
June 3rd, 2013 | 9:43 pm As a born-and-raised Mississippian, I heartily endorse this translation. (I’ve never understood why the standard dialect lost the number distinction in the second person.)
June 4th, 2013 | 1:05 am Y’all (all of you) is perfectly reasonable English, but it is not interchangeable with ‘you’, and certainly not three times in the same sentence. Can’t y’all see the difference?
John H. Graney
June 4th, 2013 | 2:02 am It’s an interesting solution, but I fear that the translation isn’t suitable for liturgical use.
Judy K. Warner
June 4th, 2013 | 8:06 am Maryland is only a little bit southern, but in the 28 years I’ve lived here I’ve learned to use y’all when I mean you, plural, without being embarrassed. It is a useful addition to my vocabulary. When I was a child in Philadelphia, many of the black people were from the south and they said y’all. White working class people said youse. I suppose there could be a Bible app for that: “Do youse not know that youse are a temple of God….” Nah.
June 4th, 2013 | 8:17 am “You” is already plural!” Yes, but opaquely so. Most languages have the advantage of distinguishing between the plural and the singular. It can be very useful to do so. It is a lack in English that it does not.
June 4th, 2013 | 8:19 am And “thou” no longer exists in spoken English, and barely in writing, so I am not sure it is accurate to say that English “has” a singular/plural, as opposed to “had” the distinction.
June 4th, 2013 | 9:43 am “Y’all” is certainly plural, but its usage in the South is more nuanced than a simple search/replace can address. For example, English sentences exist in which “you” or “your” occurs 3-4 times, or more. If the “you” is plural in such a case, a Southerner would certainly replace the first “you” with a “y’all,” maybe even the second, but would almost certainly use “you” as the sentence meandered along. In other words, rather than being an ordinary dialect pronoun, “y’all” serves a topic-setting purpose, markedly establishing the referent as plural. Once this is established, though, “you” becomes increasingly likely. The marked status of “y’all” is further suggested by usage of the possessive “y’all’s.” The latter is much rarer, is generally used only when the referent’s singular/plural status is unclear, and is almost invariably replaced by “your” after the first use. God bless Nimrod: he’s given us language nerds at least as much fun as he has confusion!
June 4th, 2013 | 1:52 pm I vote for the Pittsburgh “yunz” or “yunz guys” as a better alternative to 2nd person plural you.
June 4th, 2013 | 2:09 pm FYI: The plugin also has options for other regional variants like Pittsburgh (yinz), general US (you guys), NYC (youse guys), UK (you lot), etc. You can also simply highlight the 2nd plurals in green rather than actually changing the word. Finally, there is an option to make it more clear that “the LORD” is actually “Yahweh.”
June 4th, 2013 | 4:00 pm Yes, but in the “real” south y’all can be plural or singular. Pure plural is “all y’all” or when referring to family “ya mama ‘n nem”.
June 4th, 2013 | 4:09 pm When I first went to a college, I heard another freshman talking on the phone about how strange it was — people didn’t say, “y’all” but “you guys” or just “you.”