"man" vs. "guy" redux

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Nov 20 15:08:12 UTC 2002

Steve Kleinedler reminds me that it might be relevant to include this
cite from actress Joan Allen, via Clancy and our 2000 LSA paper on
he-man language, in which we refer to

"...the creeping sex-neutrality of gyu(s) in vocative contexts (hey,
guys!) and increasingly in referential contexts (one of the guys).
This development-radiating outward from the now well-established you
guys as a colloquial sex-neutral second person plural pronoun
competing with you all, y'all, and youse to the increasingly attested
guys as an informal substitute for people or folks (in both male and
female speech) to its still somewhat marginal use as a trendy
sex-neutral singular as in (6)

(6)     Steppenwolf was four people and I'm just one guy.
           -actress Joan Allen hosting Saturday Night Live, 11/14/98,
cited in Clancy (1999:287)


The motivation here appears to be that "guy" is more informal than
the only obvious alternative, "person" or "individual".  ("Woman" or
"girl" are out here, at least because it implies a contrast with a
set of four women, which doesn't accurately characterize the
Steppenwolf troupe.)


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