you guys

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Apr 17 18:51:32 UTC 2003

>i grew up in wyoming (you guys land) and spent summers in tennessee
>(you all land) and cannot get by without a you-plural that is
>distinct from you-singular.   i often use guy/guys as a gender
>neutral placeholder for person/persons.  this worked fine for me in
>wyoming, rhode island, and oregon.  here in california, i am
>"corrected" several times a day by interlocuters who think i have
>misidentified the gender of the person for whom the place is being
>held in my utterance.
>i persist in using guy/guys this way.  i am a film guy, the woman who
>takes care of the vacation and sick leave  is the timesheet guy, the
>woman we hired yesterday is the new guy, and so on.
>sylvia swift
>madonna at

This represents an extension of the sex-neutrality from the vocative
"you guys" to the use of "guys" for the addressee set to the plural
description "the guys" (as in the Geno Auriemma examples I cited
earlier, where he refers to his women's team as "the guys" or singles
out "the young guys", etc.) to the singular in Sylvia's examples.
The last is the only use that I haven't heard much around here
(Connecticut), but I would imagine it might be creeping in.  There's
a nice illustration in that Clancy paper in _American Speech_ I cited
in my last note:

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)

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