Yous Guys


I was watching The Quiet Man the other day, in my annual tribute to my Irish roots. (Please watch. It is so good.) I am a Heinz 57 kind of gal when it comes to ethnic origins. I pull from the old European standards like Germany, Ireland, England, Spain, and a bit of France. There’s also a few interesting spices thrown in the mix, like Native American, Cuban, and Croatian (“laku noć” is how my family says “good-night”) so that’s always fun.

In most cases, I’m third generation. And all my grandparents are still alive and well, so the stories about parents who made their way over here and worked their way up have been told from some kind of firsthand perspective. It’s nice to get the stories from the people who went through them.

An interesting thing, though, that I realized while I watched The Quiet Man, which is set in Ireland and uses primarily Irish actors, is that a lot of stuff that I assume belongs to me, as an American, doesn’t. I blame the generational gap for my lack of knowledge. If I were an Irish native, or only one generation removed, I would know intrinsically what I am about to tell you.

“Yous” (alternate spelling: “youse”) is a Philly thing, right? Everyone from Philly knows this.

Except it’s NOT.

I can’t find a clip on YouTube, so this picture with caption will have to do (My apologies to TQM aficionados, I know this is not right.):

“Now I want yous all to cheer like Protestants!”

Turns out the etymology (oh Linguistics, I miss you) of “yous” takes us right smack dab to the middle of Northern Ireland. Which makes sense, if you know anything about Philly. It just really never occurred to me that the distinctive Philly phrase doesn’t actually belong to Philadelphia at all.

It worries me; here’s why.

What about “guys?!” I don’t say “yous” too much, but I use “guys” all the time.

For example: “Hey guys!” or “What are you guys doing?” or “You guys ever say ‘yous?'” (The last one, in true Philly-speak, would go like this: “Yous ever say ‘yous?'”)

Where did “guys” come from?! No one in Mexas uses it with the comfort and regularity that I do, so I know it’s not a Texan or Mexican thing. And no one used it during my years in Virginia, so I know it’s not even an East Coast thing.

If “guys” is also a Philly (or Northeast) thing, does it actually belong to us? Or is it another appropriated phrase that we have adopted in a closed adoption where we know nothing about the parents of this fabulous and incredibly useful child?

I’m so confused.

Any ‘a yous have phrases like this in your life?

*Side note: Northern Monkeys (aka: natives of North Jersey) have corrupted these two words by combining them. You haven’t felt pain until you’ve heard some guidette from Long Island dropping “yous guys” all over the place. It doesn’t even make any sense. Who needs two plurals?! This language is Germanic, not Latin, gosh-darnit!


6 thoughts on “Yous Guys”

  1. My favorite hereabouts is “do what now?” which means “pardon me, I didn’t hear what you said,” or “have you lost your mind? That’s crazy talk!” depending on the context. And “guys” was common parlance in the L household long before we moved to Jersey — New Yorkers say ‘youse guys’ but the New York “youse” has an ‘s’ instead of the SJ/Philly ‘z’.

  2. Bubala was a word of affection used by my mother (deceased these 20 years) which I now use frequently addressing my beagle. Just recently found out it’s an actual Russian word of affectionate address. Where my Irish, German, Italian mother, born in Brooklyn, acquired it I have no idea. By the way, you omitted the bit of Italian you have in your genes.

  3. Mos Def – Most DefinatelyWicked – ReallyTotally – I agreeAnd Bostonians use ‘you guys’ as well, even if you are talking to all females. I say it a lot to my children. Dude, there’s probably so many more.

  4. “shut the light off.” “Pull up yer britches.” yonder, for shizzle…I could go on. And “Reckon” is the kings english for sure.

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