On the origin of "you guys"

In New Joisy it’s ‘yous guys’


I’ve been greeting my classes with “Hi guys” for over 40 years. I don’t know what I’d use instead if there were complaints. Since I’m neither a politician nor a Glaswegian ice cream vendor, “Hello folks” doesn’t feel right, and if I use the obvious “Greetings, people of Earth” it will reveal too much.

(Edited to change “30” to the more accurate “40”. Yikes!)


Wish I could give you more likes. Le Demon Blonde is among my all-time favourite hockey players.

First person I thought of while reading the post. :slight_smile: Lapointe was a close second.

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goonies hey you guys GIF


Funny, I never noticed before that Guy’s character arc was that he started out as Arthur Dent and finished as Zaphod Beeblebrox…


I learned “you guys” from my PEI-living, French-Canadian mother and her mother. Both use “You guys” to mean “All Y’all” with no gender intended. I’ve always used it, too.

But we say it “yOOz guyz”. Strong “OOZE” in the first work. Strong “IZE” ends the second word. Think “Booze Guize”.


He must be a distant relative of Hugh Mann.


In 3rd grade, we taught our friend from Tennessee how to say you guys, instead of ya’ll. By my senior year, it became dudes. Hey, dudes. In my junior year of college, I learned to use other gender neutral expressions to refer to women, particularly self-avowed feminists, and mixed company, instead of the otherwise acceptable you guys. And in my 4th year study abroad with dudes from Philly, I was back to saying you guys–but adding an s to you. Hey, everyone says yous guys in Philly.



And the Paris Métro station:


New England, too. Once I used the term, “you guys,” at a conference in the southeast, though, and some of the women got visibly annoyed. (It was a massively male-dominated audience, so I kind of get that, the term being unfamiliar to them.)
I explained that up here it’s the equivalent of “y’all” down there, and they settled down.


Settle down, ladies. /s

Oh, yikes, I didn’t mean it that way at all! They were rankled, then less so, is all. As the speaker/presenter, and a fellow female, I was surprised and chagrined at the response from them. Live and learn!


I don’t believe that anyone can use “dudes” as a second person plural. There is no dialect where 1 is a substitute for 2.

  1. *I gave candy to dudes.
  2. I gave candy to you guys/you all/yous/ya’ll.

What I’ve noticed among the young adults in my life is that ‘dude’ or "my dude’ has a tendency to start the sentence and is used to refer to one person (of any gender) at a time.


In all seriousness, I sometimes use “gals”, “ladies”, or other female specifiers as generic terms in situations where I know people will react. Gives me the chance to say, “Why is that stranger than using masculine terms as the defaults for everything?”. I doubt it makes the world a better place, but I feel better for a moment.

  1. I gave candy to you dudes.
  2. I gave candy to guys.

Dudes, back me up here.

I might buy that “you dudes” could be grammaticalized as the second person plural in some “dude”-heavy dialect, but never “dude” by itself. Nobody is saying that “guys” by itself forms the regular second person plural in some USian dialects of English but rather that “you guys” is. Part of the evidence that “you guys” has been grammaticalized as such is that it is what regularly fills the paradigm for those speakers but also that there are typically weird constructions for the second person plural possessive that can’t occur with something like “you athletes” or “you Ohioans”.

  1. Can I borrow your guys’ phone? (Napoleon Dynamite)
  2. *Can I borrow your athletes’ phone?

I suspect that it might actually be the case that some speakers have:

  1. ?Can I borrow you dudes’ phone?
  2. ??Can I borrow your dudes’ phone?

I speak a very “dude”-heavy dialect but 4 seems very questionable to me unless it means “Can I borrow the phone of your dude, i.e. the dude you brought into this situation or your boyfriend?” It doesn’t seem like it can mean “I can I borrow the phone that belongs to all you dudes?” 3. on the other hand, seems surprisingly good to me.

This doesn’t get around the fact that “dudes” by itself as a vocative as in “Dudes, can I borrow your phone?” (or “It’s Wednesday, my dudes.”) is not serving as a second person at all. It is a vocative in the same way that “John and Susan” in “John and Susan, can I borrow your phone?” wouldn’t be something you would put in the pronoun paradigm. Dude, I’m not even sure it is really supposed to be vocative at all but rather some other sort of discourse marker like “so” or “anyhow” that kind of serves as an intensifier, i.e. “Dude, where’s our car?”.

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