Avoid this American colloquialism unless you are a colloquial American. If you use it in the UK you may get funny looks, and perhaps more so if you use it in writing.
And for those wanting to know, linguists have concluded that it is to be used as a plural, not a singular, so It is y'all are not 'y'all is'. That said, in the Southern states it is frequently used in the singular, which is why they are forced to use all y'all for the plural.
yea or yay?
The old expression yea ("yay") for yes or affirmative should not be confused with yay (also "yay"), meaning yippee. It is colloquial to write yay in the form of "yay big".
The popular use of 'ye olde' is assumed to be pronounced "yay old". This is a falsehood, because Old English and Middle English used the symbol 'þ', not 'y'. The sound of 'þ' is "th", so 'þe' was pronounced "the". Sound familiar? It was only with the introduction of printing that 'þ' was substituted for 'y', thus becoming ye. It was still promounced "the". Eventually it became the.
yet or as yet?
There is no perceivable difference between yet and as yet. Since it makes no difference, careful writers use yet. The only time as yet can really be considered is when starting a sentence with it, but perhaps such a sentence could be rewritten.
ying and yang or yin and yang?
It is yin and yang.
yodelling or yodeling?
yodelling: British spelling uses -ll- while the American spelling is -l-. So the correct spelling is 'yodelled' and 'yodelling'.
yolk or yoke?
The gooey yellow centre of an egg is called yolk (also known to some Americans as "the red"), while yoke means tethered.
yogurt or yoghurt?
This is a tricky one, because the preferred British spelling is normally 'yoghurt' with an -h- while the preferred American spelling is 'yogurt' with it. But, the strange thing is that British spelling has now almost unanimously moved over to 'yogurt'. Every single brand of yoghurt in Britain now uses 'yogurt' on the supermarket shelves instead of 'yoghurt', and oddly only the imported Greek yoghurts use the spelling 'yoghurt' now.
you and I
This old nutcracker is perhaps is the most terrifying. People have developed have a morbid paranoid about whether It is "you and I" or "you and me" and have a deep fear that their ignorance will be exposed for all to see. The most confusing thing is that both examples are heard everyday of the week.
The first myth to kill off is that it is ALWAYS "you and I". That is plain nonsense, in the same way that we never just talk about "I". If you know enough English to know the right time to use "me" and when to use "I", you are 50% there.
"I think that you should return the book to me."
All you do is add the person (let's say Emily) to the sentence.
"(Emily and) I think that you should return the book to me." Or "I think that you should return the book to (Emily and) me."
Now you see why it sounds strange to say "(Emily and) me want the book back" or "Give the book back to (Emily and) I." That's all there is to it.
you both or both of you?
The choice to use both of you is considered more formal than you both, but there is nothing incorrect about you both.
This page last updated: 15 November 2014
Jesse Karjalainen is the author of The Joy of English: 100 conversations about the English Language, Cannibal – the language and history of the discovery of the New World, and Roanoke – the language and history of Early Colonial America.