American English: Where to use 'yall' versus 'yinz'

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If you do much traveling in the United States, you're bound to hear a few words and expressions that are unique to certain areas. Well y'all get ready, because I'm fixin' to analyze some of those words for ya!

I recently found a really neat web application called The Great American Word Mapper that lets you enter words, and see maps of where those words were used most frequently in Twitter posts. It's pretty cool, and almost addicting! Here's an example showing the two words I found most interesting - yall and yinz:

word_mapper

And as with any cool map, I felt compelled to try to create a similar one with SAS software!

Fortunately, they provided a link to their data on a Google drive, which made my endeavor a lot easier. They provided a separate csv file for each letter of the alphabet, and each level of smoothing (none, low, med, and high). Since yall and yinz both start with the same letter, I only needed the 'y' data files, and I decided to go with the 'medium' smoothed data, since those maps looked the best to me. I used the DMS SAS File->Import wizard, which wrote me a bit of Proc Import code that imported the data quickly & easily. I was then able to plot the data fairly easily using Proc Gmap. Here are my SAS maps showing the smoothed data for yall and yinz:

wordmap_yall1

wordmap_yinz1

Here are a few changes (hopefully improvements) in my version of the maps:

  • I added titles/text to explain more about what is represented in the map, and where the data came from.
  • I made the state outlines darker, and left out the county outlines, shifting the focus from counties (which most people aren't familiar with) to states (which most people are familiar with).
  • I leave out the city labels, because they obscure parts of the map and I think the state outlines suffice.
  • I added html mouse-over text to show the state names (click the map image snapshots above, to see the interactive versions with the mouse-over text).

I liked the original maps, but I like my versions even better! The 'yall' map showed just about what I expected - common usage throughout the southeast, with the exception of Florida (where a lot of retirees from up north live). The 'yinz' map showed a high concentration in the western half of Pennsylvania, which is correct (according to Wikipedia and my friend who grew up in that area). But I was a bit curious about a second yinz concentration encompassing several counties located along the border of North Carolina & Virginia. I've never really heard the word yinz used in that area, so I was a bit skeptical. So I decided to dig a little deeper...

Any time smoothing is used, there is a possibility it will distort the true nature of the data. Therefore I decided to plot the unsmoothed yinz data, to see if it might shed some additional light on this odd NC/VA concentration. As I suspected, the raw data map showed that it was really only a couple of counties (Orange and Person) that had the high number of Twitter posts containing the word yinz. So in this particular case, the smoothing exaggerated the NC/VA yinz hotspot quite a bit, and it's probably better to use the unsmoothed data. (Which reinforces my suggestion to always plot your data in several different ways!)

wordmap_yinz_circle


And now for a fun example ... My friend Margie is a bit of a local legend. Her passion is to create clever signs to hold up during sporting events (especially ice hockey) - they are frequently shown on the jumbo screen, and sometimes even on television. She's earned the nickname Clever Sign Chick, which she wears proudly. She spent her early childhood in western Pennsylvania, and therefore she's familiar with their local words such as 'yinz'. So when the Pittsburgh team came down to play our NC team, she greeted them with the following sign (all in good fun, of course!) ... which is an example of a perfect combination of the slang words yinz (commonly used around Pittsburgh), and ain't (commonly used in NC).

yinz_sign

What special slang words are unique to your area? Feel free to share in the comments!

 

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About Author

Robert Allison

The Graph Guy!

Robert has worked at SAS for over 20 years, and is perhaps the foremost expert in creating custom graphs using SAS/GRAPH. His educational background is in Computer Science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from NC State University. He is the author of several conference papers, has won a few graphic competitions, and has written a book (SAS/GRAPH: Beyond the Basics).

13 Comments

  1. Yinz in chapel hill!!! Must be my fellow Pittsburghers kids over at UNC or Duke. I use yinz a lot in my tweets but would assume they would come in to Wake County data.

    Very interesting Robert. Maybe it was all the 'yinzers' tweeting during the Pitt/UNC football game this past fall.

  2. Michelle Homes

    What an interesting web map application and your improvements do help with the visualization... I hadn't heard of "yinz" before. I am familiar with the word "youse" which also seems to be common way to make "you" plural - http://mentalfloss.com/article/12916/yall-youse-8-english-ways-make-you-plural. An educational language post...
    We certainly have a lot of slang, here down under. Have a sticky... http://www.australianslang.org/ You've started out 2017 flat out like a lizard drinking! Hooroo ;-)

    • Robert Allison
      Robert Allison on

      Ha! - Speaking of slang ... I remember in the song "Down Under" I thought they were saying "traveling in a fried up gumbie" (which I wasn't sure what that was), and then years later a lyrics website let me know it was "traveling in a fried out combie" (which I still wasn't sure what it was!) ;)

  3. Natalia van Veen on

    Your post is so interesting lol, I've never heard of Yinz before! I'm in Oz and I love the Yall saying that is used... You probably found out by now... a fried out combie is of course a old, used VW Combie Van used by surfers and later by hippies... but then yall/yinz have those in California so you probably have seen them before ;-)

  4. Thanks for the smile this morning. Enjoyed this analysis and am happy to see proof that the Steelers' Nation is indeed far and wide. I was surprised to see the term Yinz covering a bigger portion of Pennsylvania than I expected. I expected the bulk of the concentration to be western PA and centered on Pittsburgh (the center of the world, ha ha).

  5. Here in Illinois we have what we call the "Y'All" line which is just south of Plainfield, IL, a far southwestern suburb of Chicago. Above that line is a "Y'all" exclusion zone.

    I don't argue with the usefulness of "Y'all" but still cringe when hearing it.

    Maybe next you can analyze why the whole USA says "DMV" for state vehicle services when the actual agency's name differs from state-to-state. Thanks California for that one.

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