Wednesday September 28th, 2011

As best as I know, I own the distinction of being the first person to call national attention to a linguistic phenomenon. Back in 1972, I was talking to Robyn Smith, then the best female jockey in the land, for an article in Sports Illustrated, when Robyn referred to married couples as 'you guys.' I was so bemused that someone might actually refer to a woman as a guy that I felt obliged to mention it in the piece.

Since that mention 39 years ago, the term 'guy' has just taken over. There are no men and women left, no males or females, let alone ladies and gentlemen or boys and girls. It's just guys. Even down south, 'y'all' is being replaced by 'you guys' or the grammatically-incorrect 'y'all guys.' Recently, even the President ended his news conference, saying "thank you, guys."

How did females become guys? How did everyone become guys? Remember, too, that a male guy was something of a scoundrel. And a wise guy was a fresh kid, a whippersnapper. In its most other famous evocation, men in Brooklyn said 'youse guys.' Damon Runyan referred to hustlers, gamblers and other nefarious types as guys. Now every mother's son is a guy and every mother's daughter, too. If they wrote the musical now, it wouldn't be called Guys and Dolls---- just Guys and Guys.

What accounts for the guy-ification of America? Maybe it has to do with the fact that men had to stop calling grown women 'girls.' Gals kind of went out, too, so there wasn't anything else available. In sports, for a long time, even after it was gauche for anyone else to call adult females 'girls,' women athletes still referred to each other as 'girls,' but that just won't do anymore. Now, the only place where we allow females to remain forever young is where love is involved: girlfriends and (with males, too): boyfriends. We'll have reached the nadir when it's just guyfriends and guyfriends.

Now that guy has been appropriated by women, men have started to use 'dude' a lot more, but that remains mostly in the singular, as a form of address, as 'sir' used to be. For example, someone will say, "Yo, dude, who are the guys on your team?" Still, nobody addresses anybody as guy. We'll say, "Dude, you're a good guy," but nobody says, "Guy, you're a good dude."

Please understand I have nothing against women becoming guys, too. I'm just tired of everything being guy-ish. Now we're all just ... guys. All guys are created equal. God is a guy now. Your father is just another guy. So is your mother. Guys, start your engines. Happy Valentine's, my guy. A pretty guy is like a melody. We're all the same guys under the skin.

Yo, dude, let's stop guying.

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