Come into the parlor

Since I solicited suggestions for a collective noun to identify the readership of this blog, the word parlor is the term that has gotten the most traction.

I had thought at one point that snuggery might be a good term. But now that the world has grown so damnably virtuous that one can no longer go to a pub for a pipe and a pint, the luster of the word is diminished. But we could repair to the parlor for Madeira and walnuts.

The word parlor (parlour for Commonwealth readers) derives ultimately from the French parler, to talk. As a noun, parloir was the name for the room in convents and monasteries where visitors could be received. It developed into the sense of a room for intimate conversations and the room in the house in which visitors could be received formally. (Also the room in the house where a body would be laid out for viewing before a funeral.)

The parlor in my grandparents’ farmhouse in Fleming County, Kentucky, was the room where I practiced on the old upright piano as a child, one of the rooms where I spent hours stretched out reading on a sofa, the room in which my first wife and I were married. It’s a term with a lot of personal associations.

So I am leaning in that direction myself, though I still think that this is something for the readership to determine. Over the weekend I checked an analytical program that collects metrics for this blog (Yes, we saw what you did; we know who you are) and discovered that in the past year there are more than 5,000 of you who have viewed pages here more than 200 times each. If you are going to be that loyal, you deserve a voice in what you are called.

Incidentally, I appear to have disconcerted at least one of you by saying that “what y’all decide is not up to me,” provoking the comment “John McIntyre said, ‘Y’all’?” Coincidentally, my eminent colleague Dan Puckett at the San Antonio Express-News posted a comment on Facebook: “Dan is an emphatic proponent of ‘y'all’: It disambiguates, y'all.” I asked how he stands on the plural, all y’all. He answered that all is merely intensive, since y’all is already plural.

We may have to call Language Log in on this one, or even, in an extremity, Southerners, because I have heard y’all used in direct address to a single person. So either y’all is an error when used in the singular, or it is, like you, singular or plural in context, which might make all y’all a kind of hyperplural.




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