"politics" and "guys"

Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Sun Dec 3 11:51:12 UTC 2006


In spite of many years of Michigander life, I have resisted "you
guys" (and elliptical "guys") in this context, although I find that
the context itself rarely presents itself. Since I am a native "you
all" (but not "y'all") speaker, perhaps I felt that the local (i.e.,
MI) reception of my speech was less mocking, although I can hardly
imagine how I could be even unconsciously insecure in the face of a
bunch of Northern Cities Shifters!


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>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>Subject:      Re: "politics" and "guys"
>Ca.1967, the use of "you guys" by women to address groups consisting
>entirely of women annoyed me. However, I've since been able to get
>past that. Indeed, from time to time, I've found myself addressing a
>group of women and / or girls as "you guys," when, in the course of
>monitoring my speech, I've found myself reduced to a choice of that or
>On 12/2/06, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at yahoo.com> wrote:
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>  Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>
>>  Subject:      Re: "politics" and "guys"
>>  Sorry for stupidly identifying Lucy as _Homo erectus_.
>>    She was an Australopithecine, as I well know.
>>    The TV reference to "politics" described the Australopithecine kind.
>>    JL
>>    Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at yahoo.com> wrote:
>>      Pt.1
>>    Some weeks back, IIRC, I posted an example of "politics" used in
>>the narrow sense of "simple power relationships in society; the
>>jockeying for influence or power," or however you care to phrase
>>it.  Some of you replied that that's pretty much what "politics"
>>always means.
>>    As you wish, post-Hobbesians.
>>    As I write, though, the Discovery Science Channel is
>>rebroadcasting a 2003 rock-u-sock-u-mentary called _Walking with
>>Cavemen_. It makes a reference to "politics" among members of a
>>_Homo erectus_ troop.
>>     _H. erectus_ is, of course, the human ancestor most familiar
>>through the fossil known as "Lucy."  These small critterfolk walked
>>erect but seem to have had nothing comparable to a language
>>enabling them to make political speeches, discuss nuances of
>>governing, etc.  So their "politics" must have been  pretty close
>>to animal dominance relationships. The show's narration doesn't
>>even try to suggest otherwise.
>>    Pt. 2
>>    Long, long ago I made vague reference to Douglas R. Hofstadter's
>>crusade against generic "you guys."  By chance, I've stumbled again
>>onto the source, and here it is:
>  >
>  >   1997 D. R. Hofstadter _Le Ton Beau de Marot_ (N.Y.: Basic
>Books) 202: In my view, the most pervasive - and for that reason by
>far the most serious - disease of sexist usage infecting
>contemporary American English is the
>to-many-people-innocuous-sounding phrase "you guys" (and related
>ways of using "guys" in directly addressing a group of people)....
>>    And so on for a couple of oversize pages.
>>    JL
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>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.
>-Sam Clemens
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

It should be the chief aim of a university professor to exhibit
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Homer Simpson

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
15-C Morrill Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1036
Phone: (517) 353-4736
Fax: (517) 353-3755
preston at msu.edu

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