August 5, 2020

"Etymologists trace the term 'guys' to the historical figure Guy Fawkes. It’s evolved from the name of one man..."

"... who attempted to assassinate King James I in 1605 to an informal address for a group of people in contemporary American English. But when used to address your colleagues, it’s a gendered greeting that could be sending signals about who is ― and isn’t ― included in your workplace."

From "Instead Of Saying 'Hey, Guys!' At Work, Try These Gender-Neutral Alternatives/Raise your awareness of gendered language on the job" (HuffPo). Here's a list of alternatives (none of which question the "hey," which I grew up hearing was rude): "hey team, hey crew, hey all, hey folks, hey people, hey peeps, hey y'all, hey everyone, hey pals, hey friends." You could just say "hello" or "good morning."

Anyway, you can decide for yourself — or be bullied — about how gender-neutral you want to be about your greetings in various settings. I mostly wanted to express surprise that the term "guy" comes from Guy Fawkes. I looked it up, and that is the etymology of "guy." (Referring to a person. There is another line of etymology for the "guy" has to do with ropes and wires, and that's related to "guide.")

The evolution of "guy" for a man began with the effigies that were burned on Guy Fawkes Day. These were dressed in "grotesquely ragged and ill-assorted garments" — according to the OED. By 1836, the word was used to refer to "A person of grotesque appearance, esp. with reference to dress; a ‘fright.'" By 1847, in the U.S., it became another way to say "man" or "fellow":
1847 ‘Lord Chief Baron’ Swell's Night Guide (new ed.) 41 I can't tonight, for I am going to be seduced by a rich old Guy.
1863 C. Reade Hard Cash III. xiii. 270 I wouldn't speak to you in the street for fear of disgracing you; I am such a poor little guy to be addressing a gentleman like you...
1898 Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Sentinel 22 Jan. 4/7 I s'pose you got a Bible you'll let a guy look into....
When did "guy" become so common as a way to address somebody? I'm no etymologist, but I trace it back to the 1971 "Hi, guy" commercial for Right Guard:



Why am I getting tinglings of deja vu? Oh, yeah. I already wrote this post! Last year!

82 comments:

tcrosse said...

That's a story right out of Guy de Maupassant.

Freder Frederson said...

"Guys" was gender neutral where I grew up.

MadTownGuy said...

Hey! Don't diss the guys.

Wilbur said...

Nothing makes my temper want to flare like some Leftist condescendingly addressing others with "PEEPULL!!"

Wilbur said...

Wasn't that Guy Williams in the commercial?

Howard said...

I prefer the Canadian Hockey player pronunciation: Ghee

Big Mike said...

I could swear I used the term “guys” way before that foolish commercial.

By the 1980s I was often working in (and starting to lead) teams of software developers that were mixed with respect to sex and race. “Folks” became my preferred term for addressing teammates as a group. It still is.

gspencer said...

Where's Mona when you need her?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byTJ9O70A-4

Owen said...

HuffPo just wants to push people around and make them worry about their wording. I have a suggestion for the collective noun to address *them*. It’s a really old word with a distinguished provenance. It starts with “ass” and ends with “holes.”

gilbar said...

If Only! If Only there was some plural of You
where the word You, could be used to include All the people present

maybe something like; "hi, All of you!"
or maybe shorten it to "hi, All you!"

hmmm that seems not to flow; i wonder what it would be like, if we reversed the order?

Paul Zrimsek said...

Today it would be "Hi, guy. What are you doing about violence against women?"

Kate Danaher said...

Another childhood memory, cancelled
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_iGaQglnKg
How did we ever survive the 70s?

tim maguire said...

Guys is gender neutral. The problem here is a left so desperate to burnish its good-guy credentials that will seize on any excuse to claim it’s too good to do something. You can’t virtue-signal without a ready supply of non-virtuous.

Expat(ish) said...

I'd go with "ya'll" but I'm sure that is somehow cis-privileged or racist or abelist or some other thing I actually don't care around anymore.

I'm the Peanuts Gang in class now: wah wah wah wah blah blah blah blah.

-XC

PS - I have a great idea - you greet people in whatever way you want and we'll politely make judgements about you in our heads. And make sure you get that promotion you are seekiung.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Guys is a gender neutral term for all those people (and even their dogs too!) in an amorphous group that you wish to address. Hey guys...let's get going.

Guys is informal usage only. I wouldn't use it when conducting a seminar. In that case it would be "everyone". "Hello, everyone"

Anyone who is so ultra sensitive to get offended when you use the term "guys" to address a group of people....isn't worth having around you. You can safely tell them to fuck off since they are already offended :-)

Nonapod said...

dude (n.)
1883, "fastidious man," New York City slang of unknown origin; recent research suggests it is a shortening of Yankee Doodle, based on the song's notion of "foppish, over-fastidious male"

pal (n.)
"partner, mate, chum," slang, 1680s, said to be from Romany (English Gypsy) pal "brother, comrade," a variant of continental Romany pral, plal, phral, which are probably from Sanskrit bhrata "brother" (from PIE root *bhrater- "brother"). Colloquial extended form palsy-walsy is attested from 1930. Pally (adj.) is attested by 1895.

buddy (n.)
1850, American English, possibly an alteration of brother, or from British colloquial butty "companion" (1802), itself perhaps a variant of booty in booty fellow "confederate who shares plunder" (1520s). But butty, meaning "work-mate," also was a localized dialect word in England and Wales, attested since 18c., and long associated with coal miners. Short form bud is attested from 1851. Reduplicated form buddy-buddy (adj.) attested by 1952, American English.

chickelit said...

My grandfather's first name was Guyland but everyone called him Guy. I always thought that was cool both -- personal and generic at the same time.

Bob/Kristy said...

My mother, distinctly remembers moving from Iowa to North Carolina in 1965, and greeting a group of girls in school by saying “Hi guys”, and being told by a girl who seemed quite offended, “We are not guys”.

rehajm said...

I blame Rita Moreno...

Meade said...

“Hey is for horses” where I grew up.

AMDG said...

“Hey Guys” is essentially gender neutral

Calypso Facto said...

I really only heard "hey guys" when I had a teenage daughter; it's a phrase now most commonly used by young women addressing other young women, in my fatherly experience.

kristen said...

"Guy" is the gender neutral greeting of the northeast. I'm an older millennial (female), grew up in upstate NY, and "hey guys" said quickly, like a single 2-syllable word, is THE greeting. It's no different from "hey y'all," except faster to say.

I now live in the south, and have tried to explain this to many woke friends who tell me I'm being misogynistic. They don't get that "hey guys" as the northeast greeting doesn't have the slightest consideration of gender.

You're not thinking of the 2 words when you say it: the combined 2 syllables become something new, transcending any gendered connotations of the original words.

kristen said...

"Guy" is the gender neutral greeting of the northeast. I'm an older millennial (female), grew up in upstate NY, and "hey guys" said quickly, like a single 2-syllable word, is THE greeting. It's no different from "hey y'all," except faster to say.

I now live in the south, and have tried to explain this to many woke friends who tell me I'm being misogynistic. They don't get that "hey guys" as the northeast greeting doesn't have the slightest consideration of gender.

You're not thinking of the 2 words when you say it: the combined 2 syllables become something new, transcending any gendered connotations of the original words.

Mom said...

So a term like "Black" which not so long ago was considered acceptable or even desirable, and now is suspect, can morph in just a few decades, and that's a beautiful evolution of language; but "guy" is disrespectful to women because it was a pejorative 400 years ago. To most people, it's an honor to be one of the guys, regardless your gender. But not to the officious SJW language Nazis. Bah. Off with their heads.

rcocean said...

Some people use Guys to include women, which is always struck me as odd. I guess it depends on where you grew up. "Guys and Dolls" was a famous musical, and no women were part of "the Guys". There was also "Guys night out" - again no women. "one of the guys" - again no women.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Well, I guess we could refer to women as “gals”. Happy now?

Honestly, and with complete seriousness, who worries about this stuff? Enough to write a single sentence about it? No one I’ve ever met.

Temujin said...

This is just another reason why I am so glad that I have worked from a home office for about 25 years. And when I do (or...should I say did before the Wuhan virus killed my business) a presentation in front of a group, I don't start off with 'Hey Guys!' anyway. Particularly because I present to rooms that are 90%+ women. Or, in some cases, Womyn.

But I do let them know my preferred pronouns: Big Balls, Him. Mister.

Leland said...

"Hey peeps" has always sounded rude to me.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I also consider guys (plural) to be gender neutral. I also agree that in a formal or business setting it would be inappropriate.

Tom T. said...

If "gay" can change meaning over the years, "guy" can too.

I'm Not Sure said...

"Here's a list of alternatives: "hey team, hey crew, hey all, hey folks, hey people, hey peeps, hey y'all, hey everyone, hey pals, hey friends." You could just say "hello" or "good morning."

Or you could just quit looking for ways to be offended, you think?

On second thought- no, that'll never fly.

Fernandinande said...

If you like your gendered language you can keep your gendered language.

"I'm watching you", you naughty speakers of French, German, Spanish and Swedish.

mockturtle said...

"Hey guys!" works for me, even though a gal.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Expat(ish) said...

I'd go with "ya'll" but I'm sure that is somehow cis-privileged or racist or abelist or some other thing I actually don't care around anymore.

Cultural appropriation, actually. Unless you're a White American from the South or a Black American from just about anywhere. Doesn't stop it from coming out of the mouths of SJW scum, though.

madAsHell said...

Growing up in Seattle, I had never heard "guy" in the singular until that commercial.

Bubbler v. Drinking Fountain.

Yancey Ward said...

I have long treated "guys" as gender neutral. The alternatives sound mostly fucking stupid when used out loud, at least to my ear.

In any case, I prefer "Hey, dumbasses...."

Yancey Ward said...

I always suspected that Howard was possibly Canadian.

reader said...

My husband gets irritated when I slip into y’all.

The other evening I was a little more irritated than usual when I was trying to let the family know dinner was ready. I blame the Rona (as my son calls it). So instead of yelling out, “People!” I got their attention with, “Yo! A$$holes!” My FIL didn’t even blink, he just got in line for food.

Phil 314 said...

Like Kristen I grew up in upstate NY and learned “you guys” from an early age. As I’ve moved west I’ve come to understand the beauty of “Y’all”. It still feels like an affectation when I use it but its clearly the superior phrasing.

Kate said...

In the early 80s when I joined a sorority we were told to address the group as "Ladies". If you used "Guys" you were corrected. We were trying to be dignified and hearken back to a more genteel time (I think).

Nowadays, I have no idea what label a sorority could safely use. If sororities still exist...

tcrosse said...

That was Chuck McCann, one time mainstay of NYC kid's TV shows.

Joe Smith said...

So, 'Yo, bitches' is out?

Joe Smith said...

Is 'youse guys' still OK in Jersey?

DOuglas2 said...

A google NGram search nets a lot of WW11 era books with titles or phrases such as "The Guys on the Ground" (Al Friendly) and "Two Guys in the South West Pacific", a novel by John Armandine. ". . . the guys always said: situation normal, all fouled up" (1947); "“And when you're ready, I want to introduce you to the guys on my squad." (1949 in 'The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap')


Plus a lot of engineering references to tension wires supporting towers and stacks. And to Guy's hospital.

SGT Ted said...

Why are they trying to police other peoples cultural expressions?

MayBee said...

The other option is to declare the term "guys" gender neutral. If people can be gender neutral, then words can be.

stevew said...

Thank goodness I don't work or hang out with people that worry and fret about such things.

How about, "Hello, bitches!", right out, right?

It wasn't that long ago that I learned to refer to females as 'women'. Then we started hiring a whole bunch of people right out of college and I learned that the young femails call each other 'girls'.

I may have to retire sooner than I thought.

Gospace said...

kristen said...
"Guy" is the gender neutral greeting of the northeast. I'm an older millennial (female), grew up in upstate NY, and "hey guys" said quickly, like a single 2-syllable word, is THE greeting. It's no different from "hey y'all," except faster to say.


Bob/Kristy said...
My mother, distinctly remembers moving from Iowa to North Carolina in 1965, and greeting a group of girls in school by saying “Hi guys”, and being told by a girl who seemed quite offended, “We are not guys”.


Wow! There's regional variations in how English is used! Who knew this? Pretty obviously Monica Torres doesn't. "Guys and gals" hasn't cut it at least since I remember first speaking. I've never referred to "girls" as "gals". It's always had impolite connotations, at least where I've lived and in my social groupings- but if you're doing equivalents, it's male/female, boy/girl, guy/gal, ignoring, of course, the other 55 sexes. I think we've settled on 57, haven't we?

"All right everyone-Listen up!" or "All right guys-Listen up!" I've heard both used to address all male or mixed sex groups of people. Never seen it bother anyone. I do my best to stay away from all female groups- they tend towards dysfunctional.

And as I'm Not Sure said "Or you could just quit looking for ways to be offended, you think?"

I worked retail for many years. I like selling things. Retail isn't rocket science, and pretty much requires simply that everyone in the work force gets along. Which also means people can't constantly be worrying- "Gee, did what I say maybe offend him/her/it?" I've told management- they haven't done implemented it anywhere- that there's a simple screening process they should use to decide who to hire after they've weeded out the truly incompetent with really basic skills tests. Put a large group of potential hires in a room. Start a video showing old time comedy clips, Burns and Allen, Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello, etc. There's a lot of off color humor in those old clips- make sure to use some. Observe the group- record their reactions, and review them. Anyone who is obviously annoyed by the screening- DON'T HIRE THEM! First on the list to hire- people who laugh so hard tears are running from their eyes. Every single person I met in retail who had a negative impact on store morale, or who other people avoided talking to, who filed complaints at the slightest perceived slight, every single one of them- was humorless. If you're a female detailed out to join a temporary group and the work leader says "All right men, this is what we got to to do" And you can't shout out "Wow, I got promoted!" or something similar- you're a problem. Not because you're a female- because you're a sensitive snowflake.

n.n said...

guy (n.1)

"small rope, chain, wire," 1620s, nautical; earlier "leader" (mid-14c.), from Old French guie "a guide," also "a crane, derrick," from guier, from Frankish *witan "show the way" or a similar Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *witanan "to look after, guard, ascribe to, reproach" (source also of German weisen "to show, point out," Old English witan "to reproach," wite "fine, penalty"), from PIE root *weid- "to see." Or from a related word in North Sea Germanic.

guy (n.2)

"fellow," 1847, American English; earlier, in British English (1836) "grotesquely or poorly dressed person," originally (1806) "effigy of Guy Fawkes," leader of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up British king and Parliament (Nov. 5, 1605). The effigies were paraded through the streets by children on the anniversary of the conspiracy. The male proper name is from French, related to Italian Guido.


Evolution is a many splendored thing. I think that we can guess the modern day fitness function.

Rt41Rebel said...

'If Only! If Only there was some plural of You'

I had a college roommate from the Dundalk area of Baltimore that frequently called bunches of us "youse." A quick goggle suggests it is at least defined as a slang word for that very purpose.

Real American said...

people constantly telling other people what to say are about as obnoxious as one can get. The purpose of language is used to communicate and "hey guys" and most gendered language is pretty general and includes everyone - like "mankind." Only the obtuse would feign lack of understanding. People get the message, so there is no problem. If the use of "gendered language" makes you feel excluded then it's your problem. Keep it to yourself or go tell your therapist.

traditionalguy said...

That writer is a dumb as rocks gender crime detective. The address “you guys” is a yankee term for a group of teen age girls. Sorry , but the etymology of Olde England has zero authority on American slang.

lgv said...

If it is gender neutral, then where did the term "gals" originate.

"Hey guys" is used when all male, or mixed to shorten the phrase "Hey guys and gals"

I have a tough time believing it started with Guy Fawkes unless the term gals originated in the same time period.

bagoh20 said...

I know it's gendered, but at work I address everyone at once as "Hey bitches".

It reinforces my authoritay.

bagoh20 said...

I hear women use "hey guys" to women as often as men. It has lost it's gender, and now self-identifies as non-binary. We must respect the word's choice.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

they hope to diss guise

... their anti-male bias

DKWalser said...

When I was an English major, one of the classes I took was Modern American Usage (what most of us think of as 'grammer'). The word 'guys' was included in the list of non-gendered group nouns. The evidence: Women often use the term to refer to a group of women. For example, a woman might ask two other women, "You guys want to grab lunch?" I'm sure you can think of countless examples of the use of the word guys to cover both men and women or to cover just women, which demonstrates that the word is frequently used in a non-gendered manner.

The term can be used in a gendered manner -- "We need the guys to line up over there and the gals to line up here." -- but, that's not the most common use of the term. When the term is used in a gendered manner, it is almost always accompanied with a term, such as 'gals', 'girls', or 'women', to make clear the meaning of the term guys in that context. The fact we most often pair guys with gals when using the term guys in a gendered manner is strong evidence that the term is most often used in a non-gendered sense.

SensibleCitizen said...

"You guys" as a gender neutral address is very much a California colloquial greeting.

I think Californians use it to be inclusive -- certainly not the opposite.

Enlighten-NewJersey said...

“Guys and Dolls” was from 1955.

Enlighten-NewJersey said...

Mary Wells, the song “My Guy” was from 1964 and didn’t sound like an unusual word usage at the time.

n.n said...

gal (n.)

slang pronunciation of girl, 1795, originally noted as a vulgarism (in Benjamin Dearborn's "Columbian Grammar"). Compare gell, 19c. literary form of the Northern England dialectal variant of girl, also g'hal, the girlfriend of a b'hoy (1849). Gal Friday is 1940, in reference to "Robinson Crusoe."

Fritz said...

5 Guys makes great burgers and fries.

Steven said...

Everybody knows the correct greeting is:

"Hey, snowflakes!"

todd galle said...

In the 70s in Philly it was 'Yo guys', Sly Stallone did nail the accent quite well as Rocky. I had friends from the mid west in my college frat, and when we watched re-runs of the movie, they asked me to translate quite a bit which I found baffling.

funsize said...

Where I'm at on the West coast, "guys" is not gendered.

JMW Turner said...

When addressing hectoring liberals, I prefer the salutary "Hey assholes!".

MadisonMan said...

I always figured Guy in French was short for Guillaume.

Sam L. said...

I'm down with "y'all" and "all y'all".

Michael said...

Girls and Boys, Guys and Gals, Men and Women, Ladies and Gentlemen.

There is nothing wrong with any of these terms. Unfortunately, "gals" became discredited by "gal Friday" and "call my gal" referring to secretaries. So you either had to stick with "girls" or start referring to young women as guys. Even when I was in High School (early '60's, or possibly early Renaissance), "guys" had become unisex at least for mixed company.

I'm Not Sure said...

"Start a video showing old time comedy clips, Burns and Allen, Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello, etc."

May I also suggest "Blazing Saddles"? This'll get you the reaction (or not) you're looking for quite easily.

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

I hear women use "hey guys" to women as often as men. It has lost it's gender, and now self-identifies as non-binary. We must respect the word's choice.

word.

The Godfather said...

This discussion is fun, but there's a serious issue, too. You can't allow some humorless Scold to dictate your behavior. According to the linked article, "The problem with 'guys' is that it is a 'masculine word,' according to Amy Jeffers, an organizational development specialist in diversity, equity and inclusion." No, Ms. Jeffers, you weren't either appointed by God or elected by The People to declare what's a "masculine" word and what isn't. We The People think it's a gender neutral word, and that's the way we use it. We The People also think that when we make the OK sign, we mean "OK!" not, "I (Heart) White Supremacy". But when we hear your diktats and react with a hand gesture in which all but one of the fingers is folded down, that means . . . that we respectfully disagree with you.

Lucien said...

“Humans!” always appeals to me, but it takes a little panache to carry off.

exiledonmainstreet, green-eyed devil said...

Nah. I remember saying "you guys" to refer to friends of both sexes when I was a little kid back in the '60's.

n.n said...

So, guys is gender-neutral and non-derivative compared to "man" and "woman". Gals is feminine and complementary. Win, win, win. Right, guys? No egos harmed. No eggs broken. Next!

KellyM said...

Kate Danaher said...
"Another childhood memory, cancelled
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_iGaQglnKg
How did we ever survive the 70s?"

I loved that intro - It's amazing that accomplished actors such as Rita Moreno and Morgan Freeman were involved in this. It must have been an interesting experience for them. Weren't one or two of them also in the 70s drama "Room 222"?

I never thought of "guys" having gender associations, but then I, too, grew up in the Northeast where it was used all the time. Now, at my advanced age (!) I use "hey kids" with people/colleagues in my age group. It inevitably gets a laugh from everyone.

ken in tx said...

In my lived experience, Guys was masculine until The Electric Company was broadcast on PBS and started off with "Hey, you guys" shouted by a female sounding person. In the 1970s I think. It was clear she was shouting at everyone.

My wife and I, before the pandemic, were amusedly annoyed by restaurant wait staff who called us 'you guys', especially when they wanted to 'grab' stuff for us, as in "I'll just grab you guys some silverware". We have heard this phrase or something like it all over the US and even into Canada. I blame TV.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

What other topical patterns run through this archive?

Tom Hunter said...

The evolution of "guy" for a man began with the effigies that were burned on Guy Fawkes Day. These were dressed in "grotesquely ragged and ill-assorted garments" — according to the OED.

Strangely enough this is still celebrated in .... New Zealand every November 5 ("Remember, remember the 5th of November".

Even our fellow English colonial neighbour, Australia, does not pay it any attention.

My American wife has always regarded it as "the most stupid celebration I've ever heard of". But then she's Catholic so...

The good news for her is that after decades (centuries) of Protestant emphasis on the day and the fireworks, and burning old Guy, the modern secular scolds who hate fireworks in the hands of the proles, have almost killed it off.

Unknown said...

You people?!

iowan2 said...

Spades.

They forgot the rule, Shooting the moon. Getting all the spades,26 points added to each of the other players.

Euchre is a good game, quick.

Cribbage, the best 2 handed card game ever.

To kill 10,or 15 minutes waiting for someone, rap poker.