guy = 'thing'

Michael Newman Michael.Newman at QC.CUNY.EDU
Sat Feb 1 15:25:08 UTC 2014

Overheard by my friend, an English teacher in one of her 9th grade classes when I was teaching high school.

One girl with severe learning disabilities was struggling with a text and misread a word like “late” as “latee.” This other kid sitting with her, "No, it’s ‘late’.”  Pointing to the final ‘e’  he said, “That nigga’s silent, yo.”

So now we have the n-word applied to letters. Anyway, it’s the same phenomenon.

Michael Newman
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Communication Disorders
Queens College/CUNY

mnewman at

On Feb 1, 2014, at 10:15 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: guy = 'thing'
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Feb 1, 2014, at 3:18 AM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>> On Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 5:07 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at>wrote:
>>> Common for a long time in ref. to material objects.
>> It was hip in the MIT linguistics dept. in the late '70's, even in
>> reference to abstract objects, like the parts of speech: "it's clearly the
>> case that this guy is ungrammatical in the relevant environment." WTF?! :-(
> Hah.  I was going to mention that too, in particular "guy" for a constituent in a tree ("you raise this guy up to the main clause object position"), something I recall from Haj Ross's classes in particular.  This is mentioned in some of the discussions of sex-neutral "guy" as well, possibly in that Clancy paper in American Speech ("The ascent of 'guy'").
> LH
>> It annoyed the hell out of me, especially when the foreign - uh, I mean
>> *international* - students picked it up. There wasn't anything that I could
>> do about it, of course, voice crying in the desert and all that.
>> --
>> -Wilson
>> -----
>> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
>> come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
>> -Mark Twain
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list