contraction impaction

Won’t, can’t, that’ll, I’ve, we’ve, you get the idea. Are contractions contributing to the dumbing of English speaking people? Is English the only language where contractions are permitted? Listening to someone speak without the use of contractions undoubtedly adds eloquence and, perhaps, a degree of intelligence. Mind you, I am not speaking of phrases such as y’all, but, rather, real or legal contractions. For example:

A) We will not be able to gather firewood where it cannot be found.
B) We won’t be able to gather firewood where it can’t be found.

Now, seriously. Which sentence looks/sounds better to you? Or do I need to find something else on which to spend my time?

I believe that the Spanish language only uses two contractions: al (to the) and del (from the), IIRC.

I disagree, though, with the the supposed eloquence of non-contractional speech. After a while, all those syllables tends to get a little wordy.

My peeve is with the pronounciation of the contractions: cain’t, idn’t, or the ever-dreaded you’unz.

Contractions also occur in French (e.g. “l’amour”).

I don’t (sorry, “do not”) believe that contractions are contributing to the “dumbing” of English speaking people. They’ve been around for a long time, and only show up more in written works now because people write more informally than they used to. At least these days most people can write!

I think the main cause for the “dumbing” of English speaking people is the large number of dumb people.

Carpe hoc!

My Southern friends claim that you’unz is grammatically correct, as the plural of “you”.

I of course tell them they’re insane. Everyone knows that the correct terms is “youse.” =B^)

No self-respecting Southerner would ever stoop to using you’unz!!!

That “word” is, at best, a third-generation backwoods West Virginian affectation.

(heh…all you BIG ole West Virginia coalminers know that I’m just funnin’ ya, right? right???

Please, everyone knows the plural of “you” is “Y’alls!”

“Y’alls” is some kind of weird southern dialect that may or may not be based in English. Everyone knows that the plural of “You” is “Youse guys.”


Would that make Y’all’s and Y’alls’ the singular and plural possessives?

My head hurts…

Well, French (that most sophisticated and artistically pure of all languages- ask any Frenchman) is FILLED with contractions. To take the most obvious example, think of the phrase “C’est la vie.” Not only is “c’est” a contraction of “that is,” but you’d sound absolutely ridiculous if you DIDN’T use the contraction (you’ll be spotted as a tourist at once if you say “Ca est la vie”!).

In English, you can say either “That is life” or “That’s life.” In French, you pretty much HAVE to use the contraction.

I personally do not believe that contractions are ruining the English language. But I try to avoid using them at all when I write.

What really bothers me are the shortened words for example, light and lite.


Save water drink beer!

On a (marginally) related note: the use of the word ain’t drives me crazy! Not only is the word nonsense, but I can’t figure out why in the world it’s written with an apostrophe as if it is a contraction of “ain not”, as in “You ain not leaving the house dressed like that!”

Microsoft Word, where I wrote up this post, even accepts ain’t as properly spelled English. Rather than a red underlined squiggle for a misspelling, it only gives it a green squiggle for a possible slangy grammatical violation!

~ Complacency is far more dangerous than outrage ~

Oh geez, I gotta set you people straight.

  1. I have never heard a Southerner say “you’uns,” just “y’all” (present company included). “You’uns” seems to be more of a Pennsylvania + surrounding area colloquialism. I base this on the fact that I have a friend originally from PA who says “you’uns.”

  2. The plural form of “you” in the South is “y’all,” not “y’alls.” However “y’all’s” is acceptable plural possessive.

  3. I recall reading in Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson that “ain’t” used to be an accepted word in the English language, a contraction of “am not.” I guess they used “ain’t” because it’s easier to pronounce than “amn’t.”

Excellent explanation of how to use “y’all,” Strainger.
Though I can nitpick grammar with the best of them, I often feel compelled to defend “y’all” as a useful plural of “you.” It drives me nuts to hear it misused in movies and TV, as in someone saying “y’all” to refer to one person.
– Greg, Atlanta
“How’s ya mommanem?”

“Y’all” is the contraction for “you all”. Here we sometimes say “you all” and sometimes “y’all”, “you all” being the more formal term. Being a transplanted Yankee, I’m always disgusted with myself for using either, but I quickly found out that my native “you guys” offends people. Where I grew up, “you guys” meant everyone in a group regardless of gender, but here is is considered offensive to refer to females as “guys”. You can call them broads, bitches, chicks, babes, whatever, but for god’s sake don’t call them “guys”.

Scoobysnax said: “What really bothers me are the shortened words for example, light and lite.”
I despise this, too. Even worse is when businesses make up catchy spellings such as “Kwik”, as in “Kwik Mart”. I saw a place the other day called “Kountry Korner”. Makes me shudder, but at least they didn’t call it “Kuntry Korner”. I bet they thought about it, though.

“Y’all” is Southern.
“You’uns” or “y’uns” is Appalachian.
Here in Knoxville, we hear both, but “y’all” is more popular.
It don’t make no never mind to me, I ain’t as picky as some of y’all. As long as I know what y’uns’s sayin’.

German also uses contractions. “Ins” is a contraction of “in das”, for instance.

To be honest, the phrase “He can’t go” doesn’t sound any dumber to me than “He can not go.” Dumbing down of a language occurs when we decrease our vocabulary. A contraction is, I guess, a new word, so I suppose it sorta increases our vocabulary.

I also like to contract thing the way I say them. “Sorta” and “gonna” are examples. I mean really, does anybody actually say “I am going to go to the store”? We say “I’m gonna.” And even “I am going to” is an incorrect method of future tense.

And just to nitpick, sly, in your original post you used the word “cannot” in sentance (a). “Cannot” is, of course, a contraction. And my English teacher in high school told us that “can’t” is the prefered contraction of “can not”.

Your Quadell

Sly asked

Personally, I like option #C:
C) We’ll not be able to gather firewood where it can’t be found.

Seriously, though, Hebrew does this kind of thing all the time with prepositions and possesives, although it might be more accurate to call them prefixes and suffixes rather than contractions.


The preposition “from” can be either an independent word (“min”) or a prefix (“m-”).

The preposition “when” can be either a word (“ka’asher”) or a prefix (“k’she-”).

The possessive “my” can be either a word (“shelee”) or a suffix ("-ee").

The possessive “your” can be either a word (“shelcha”) or a suffix ("-cha").

And many other similar constructions.

At least three of the Celtic languages (Welsh, Scots Gaelic and Irish) also use contractions.

Never regret what seemed like a good idea at the time.

The use of similar sounding words (e.g. Kountry Korner) is so that the company can trademark and make money from the name. I’m sorry if you already know that. I am not trying to be rude. Which of those sounds more sincere? The only problem is when people start to use those words as every day speech, for example “tonite”.

ALso most of the contractions have been around for a very long time. I think one of the big changes was when they stopped paying writers by the word. Why would one write “can’t” and recieve 1 cent as opposed to “can not” and get 2?

The correct plural of “you” is “you”. There used to be the word “thou” to signify a singular person, but this was phased out by the British in the 1800’s as they were being polite.

What’s the ugliest part of your body?
Some say your nose, some say your toes,
But I think it’s your Mind - Frank Zappa