Friday, August 24, 2018

The guys problem

Joe Pinsker writes about the problem with — and without — the word guys:

The problem, for those who want to ditch guys, is that their language doesn’t present them with many versatile replacements; English lacks a standard gender-neutral second-person plural pronoun, like the Spanish ustedes or the German ihr. The alternatives to guys tend to have downsides of their own. Folks — inclusive and warm, but a little affected and forced. Friends — fine in social contexts, strange at work. People — too often pushy and impersonal. Team — its sense of camaraderie wears out with constant use. One might cobble together a mix of pronouns to deploy in different scenarios, but no one term can do it all.
When I was teaching, I defaulted to colleagues and students. In e-mail, for instance: “Hello EN3703 students.”

As for a standard gender-neutral second-person plural pronoun, there certainly was one when I was a kid in Brooklyn: youse.

comments: 5

Pete said...

Or, in Pittsburghese, “yinz.”

Michael Leddy said...

I’d like to hear that word someday.

brownstudy said...

"Guys" is one of Liz's pet peeves when we're served in a restaurant. I suppose "everyone" could be used ("How is everyone?") but it sounds starchy and forced.

Of course, since we live in the South, "you all" or "y'all" is what we-all say.

Michael Leddy said...

“Guys” is in the comic strip Dustin today, but it goes unremarked, because the topic under discussion is “working on” restaurant meals.

Michael Leddy said...

Oops — I was going from memory. It’s “folks” in today’s strip.