Usage of the word "guys" as a generic, non-gendered colloquialism for a group of humans


#1

Continuing the discussion from On April 1, Magic Lantern crashed cameras for the laughs:

Good question!

I would think it’s considered the “default” by people who probably think of the default as male guys.

[There’s a BB post, or a comment, referencing a comedy writer who thought that jokes were funnier with men, because adding a woman made it more complex, moved it away from the default; his (female) producer challenged him on it, after after some initial head-butting he saw what he was doing. (Man-?) 'Splains it a lot better than I do.]

It’s a hard habit to overcome (in my quite-fallible experience). I haven’t heard of too many women who think that they are included in “guys.” Possibly much for the same reason that when I heard Beastie Boys calling “Hey Ladies!” each to each I did not think they called to me.

If you went to a clothing store and asked for the “guys section” would you expect to be asked “but which guys section? Female guys, or male guys?”


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#2

It feels slipperier than that, though. I do recognize that “guy” is commonly considered male in most arenas–and I use it that way on occasion, i.e. “This guy I know.” On the other hand, I hear my female friends say things like, “Hey! Guys! Listen up” when talking specifically to their own female friends. Again, maybe it’s partly a regional thing (I’m in the Midwest). If I’m standing among a bunch of coworkers of mixed genders and say something like “Guys, can you give me a hand?” aside from sarcastic clapping, nobody bats an eye.

But yes, your examples are completely valid. I’m not denying the origins of the word, just wondering if there has been a shift in its meaning. And maybe my answer is: only around here.


#3

As a Californian, I just try to avoid the whole issue by referring to groups of people as “dudes.”


#4

It’s a Midwestern thing, but I think it’s dying out. My generation uses it all the time to mean entire groups no matter what the individual genders are, but my kids make a distinction between mixed-gendered groups and all-female groups, at which point I’m not supposed to use the term “guys”.

Seriously, I’ll say “come on, guys” to a group of girls and think nothing of it. But as I said, it’s a usage that seems to be on its way out.


#5

There is a perfectly good, non-gendered pronoun to refer to any group of people whom one wishes to address.

becomes

If one requires the assistance of an entire group

becomes


#6

If all y’all want some of this here pimento-cheese, you best mosey on over frightful quick now, y’hear‽


#7

I’d rather not sound like a redneck, thankyou verymuch.


#8

Also a native Californian here, but my experience is that “dudes” has a more masculine connotation than “guys”, and is rarely used generically for a mixed-sex group.

I am not often in the room when a woman hails a female crowd, but when I have been (and the women or girls in question were born later than, say, 1951), I’ve usually heard them say “Guys!” more than anything else. Never “Ladies” or “Gals” or “Girls.” My first mother-in-law used to summon her three daughters with a piercing “Giiirrrrrrrlllls!!” but the girls in question were aged 10 to 19 then.

Anyway, I would certainly love to hear good alternatives that aren’t “y’all.” I’d used “guys” generically all my life, but in recent years I mostly stopped using it. I’m uncomfortable using a whole lot of forms of address. I feel weird addressing “Mister” Anybody or “Ms.” So-and-So… and only feel slightly better addressing “Doctor” Whatshername and “Officer” Overforce. Getting the attention of a crowd of people by hollering “Okay, people!” feels like I’m organizing a corporate retreat or something. Sometimes I’ll overcompensate by jokily addressing people as “colleagues” but that gets old instantly.

I had a sixth-grade teacher who referred to his entire class as “albóndigas,” which seemed entirely appropriate at the time. Probably won’t go over too well even in my aggressively informal workplace. (Years ago I had occasion to work on an HBO movie starring James Caan, and he introduced himself to me as Jimmy, which was kinda surreal, almost as if Sir Alec Guinness had instructed me to just call him Big Al.)


#9

Comrades? Folks? Peeps?


#10

At 45, I feel “peeps” is somehow beneath even my excuse for dignity. And I may never be old enough to feel comfortable referring to people as “folks.” Feels like a relic of the middle of the last century, somehow.

And “comrades,” well, I got that pinko baggage to deal with already. :wink:


#11

Is it, though? What’s the alternative for people who don’t think of the default as male? I think of it as more of a “originally male by default for sexist reasons, but now becoming less gendered as people use it without meaning that implicit bias” kind of term. But I might be wrong, and English isn’t my first or even my most used-offline language.


#12

Oh, thanks. Thank you very f*****g much.





#13

Totes props to Trumbo!


#14

I start emails with ‘all’. Seems better than ‘Ladies and Gents’, or something similar.

How about ‘youse’?

Generally I just try to avoid it like I try to avoid using pronouns.


#15

I use the term “guys” more than I notice it used by other people, and my usage is both very casual and largely not gender specific. I could say to my daughters “are you guys hungry yet?” and not feel weird about it.

“You guys” is the only case i can think of where “guys” loses its gender. “Guys night out” is obviously gendered. “I was talking to this guy today” also strongly implies male to me


#16

Well, isn’t that why we’ve been moving away from using words like “mankind”? The goal is to adopt language that doesn’t carry so much sexist baggage and assumptions, and even though you and I might habitually use a word like “guys” without meaning any particular gender assumptions, the fact remains that when you have a group of cisgendered men on the left and a group of cisgendered women on the right and you ask someone to point to the guys, well, they’re not going to point to everyone. And that’s not even considering all the people who don’t identify with either of those groups, and who may or may not be comfortable with being addressed as “one of the guys.”

So a new alternative is needed… or, if it already exists, I’d love to be taught it. Y’know, an alternative that carries the informality of “guys” without the sexism.


#17

Not arguing with you. Just… enhancing 224 to 176.


#18

I got an email addressed to “All” on Friday evening. It turned out to be a mildly scolding email for probably unrelated reasons, but the “All” salutation fit the tone perfectly.

Uncomfortable. I’d rather be hectored with a collective “Hey you!”

“Youse” carries regional and cultural connotations much like “y’all” does, and weird as it sounds to say so, I’d feel uncomfortable appropriating either of them.

This right here. I’m with you. (If daneel will pardon Donald’s pronouns there.) :wink:


#19

Huh? Okay, well I don’t wanna imply it so I hope you don’t infer it.


#20

How about ‘we’?

Nice and inclusive? Or creepy/patronising?

If Hir is better than His/Her, why not Guls for Guys/Gals? (or Gays?)