What is the meaning of us’es in this passage below?

The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up.

The text is from Harvey Milk’s “The Hope” speech.

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    Gays are an us. Blacks are a us. Seniors are a us. The handicapped are a us. All of them together are us'es. I think it also leaves open that there could be other groups that have been without hope and are being included. Why he chose this particular (very non-standard) construction maybe someone else knows. – dcaswell Aug 31 '13 at 1:30
  • It's the plural of the us, as in We have met the enemy and he is us - Pogo. – bib Aug 31 '13 at 2:34
  • It is also evocative of a poem attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller describing how the Nazis came to take away targeted group after targeted group ...and I didn't speak out. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me. – bib Aug 31 '13 at 2:41
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    It's an eye spelling, representing the sound instead of the spelling conventions, which would call for us's. The "e" is gratuitous, but represents the epenthetic shwa inserted to separate the /s/ at the end of us from the /z/ plural. – John Lawler Aug 31 '13 at 2:56
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    @JohnLawler I don’t know why the plural of an us wouldn’t just be some uses. Oh wait, that would look like more than one use! :) Maybe some usses instead? – tchrist Aug 31 '13 at 3:10

For me: 'Uses' is used here to suggest a plural of the word us. Many groups feel discriminated against by either another group or the rest of society. This is generally given a title of 'us and them'. 'Us' being those in the group and 'them' being those against the group.

Gays, Blacks, Seniors, Handicapped people in each of their own groups are the 'us' and therefore collectively, the 'uses'. The use of this word would not be common. It is perhaps a little poetic.

As a plural form it does not take an apostrophe, but the spelling is unknown as the word is made up.

'Uses' as a plural could be confused with 'uses [yoozes]' - When one puts something into service, or 'uses [yooses]' - something that has more than one application. Therefore, 'usses' may have been preferable.

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