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Yo, Peep, Yo! The Birth of a Gender Neutral Pronoun

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Yo, Peep, Yo! The Birth of a Gender Neutral Pronoun

City Living

Yo, Peep, Yo! The Birth of a Gender Neutral Pronoun

On today's show, we did a story about a new use of the word yo. Apparently, it's not just a greeting anymore. Some students in Baltimore, Maryland, are using it as a way to refer to a third person, in a gender neutral kind of way.

Yo, Peep, Yo! The Birth of a Gender Neutral Pronoun

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/18575494/127331202" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Here's how a couple of students at The Baltimore Career Academy use the pronoun:

And there's a back story: The pronoun got attention when, a few years ago, a group of Baltimore teachers in a linguistics class at Johns Hopkins University shared with each other the spontaneous uses of yo they were hearing at their schools. Some examples:

"Yo handin' out papers (She is handing out papers)

"Peep, yo!" (Look at him!)

"You acting like I said what yo said" (You're acting like I said what he/she said)

"Yo been runnin' in the halls" (He/She has been running in the halls)

Elaine Stotko, professor of the linguistics class and Margaret Troyer, Stotko's student and Baltimore teacher, did a study on the use of the pronoun and published their findings in American Speech.

In one phase of the data collection, students were given a set of cartoon drawings with characters "made to look like the African American children at the school." The students were asked to fill in the conversation bubble using slang, which was defined as "informal language, the way you talk to your friends, not the way you talk in school." Below are the four drawings:

From the American Speech article:

"Of the 115 students who participated, 68 students did not use yo at all and 47 used,yo,as an attention-focusing device in one or more of their conversations. Eight out of those 47 students also used yo as a third person pronoun. There were 8 uses of yo in the subject position:

Yo look like a sack a** gump.
Yo is a clown.
Yo sucks at magic tricks.
Yo needs to pull his pants down.
Yo looks like a freak.
Yo is a straight clown.
Yo going to put that chicken in his mouth.
Yo, looka that dude pants. Yo is a clown.

What I want to know is, what the heck is a sack a** gump?

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