Guido x 2

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sat Feb 20 15:56:19 UTC 2010

Here's an early cite for "Guido" in the context of Jersey Shore tourism.

1988 _Red Bank [N.J.] Register_ 29 May 5C/1 Most tourists -- Bennies,
Guidos or BBQs (Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens) to us locals -- are
regular folks who just want to get away and impose themselves on the
public infrastructures near beaches, lakes or mountains.

--Ben Zimmer

On Sat, Jan 23, 2010 at 3:21 PM, Dave Wilton <dave at> wrote:
> As someone who grew up on the Jersey Shore and who worked summers on the
> Seaside Heights boardwalk, I've been familiar with the term for decades. (I
> haven't seen the MTV series yet, since I don't have cable--but the DVDs are
> in my Netflix queue for when they're released.)
> Tony Manero is certainly the ur-Guido, but "Saturday Night Fever" predates
> the term "Guido" by at least a decade. Jon Lighter's dating of the term to
> c. 1988 is dead on. When I left Jersey for the Army in 1985, the term (but
> not the type) was unknown. When I returned in 1989, it was common. And
> contrary to what Ms. Savino says, the term has most definitely been used
> pejoratively--there may be reclamation going on, but in the beginning it was
> definitely not a nice thing to call someone.
> Before the "Guido" there was the "bennie" (a term which is listed in DARE).
> I had a conversation with family members about the terms when back visiting
> the Shore over the holidays and there is definitely a generational split
> between "bennie" and "Guido." While they're familiar with the term, the
> under-30 crowd doesn't use "bennie." While older folks prefer that term to
> "Guido." Note that these aren't true synonyms. A Guido is a young man with a
> particular style of grooming, and most likely but not necessarily
> Italian-American. A bennie, on the other hand, is simply a vacationer, any
> sex, any ethnicity, any style of dress or grooming. To the residents of the
> Shore, both terms are pejorative.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
> Jonathan Lighter
> Sent: Saturday, January 23, 2010 11:48 AM
> Subject: Re: Guido x 2
> The _New Yorker_ discussed precisely the same phenomenon WRT _Jersey Shore_
> last week.
> Whatever the origin of the species, HDAS 1 traces the designation _Guido_
> back to 1988-89. My SWAG is that it was inspired by Joe Pantoliano's
> character "Guido" in the teen megahit _Risky Business_  (1983).
> JL
> On Sat, Jan 23, 2010 at 2:20 PM, Laurence Horn
> <laurence.horn at>wrote:
>> In today's Times, there is a piece by Patricia Cohen in the Arts
>> section about "Guido" (the ethnic/social label) and "Jersey Shore"
>> (the MTV reality television show that, as Virginia Heffernan (see
>> below) puts it, chronicles the exploits of "the hottest, tannest,
>> craziest Guidos" in Seaside Heights, N.J.  Reclamation may or may not
>> be involved, depending on your source...
>> ===============
>> As New York State Senator Diane J. Savino, a Democrat who represents
>> Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, explained, "Guido was never a
>> pejorative." It grew out of the 1950s greaser look, she said, and
>> became a way for Italian-Americans who did not fit the larger
>> culture's definition of beauty to take pride in their own heritage
>> and define "cool" for themselves.
>> When she was growing up, everybody listened to rock; girls were
>> supposed to be skinny, with straight blond hair (like Marcia Brady on
>> "The Brady Bunch"); guys had ripped jeans, sneakers and straggly hair.
>> Then in 1977 "Saturday Night Fever" was released. "It changed the
>> image for all of us," Ms. Savino said. As Tony Manero, John Travolta
>> wore a white suit, had slicked-back short hair, liked disco music and
>> was hot. "It was a way we could develop our own standard of beauty,"
>> she added.
>> Indeed, Professor Tricarico calls "Saturday Night Fever" the "origin
>> myth" for "Guidos." Think of Tony Manero as their Adam.
>> Young Italian-Americans, he said, did what other immigrant groups
>> before have done: take a symbol of derision, own it and redefine it
>> their own way. Young African-Americans did that with the "n word," he
>> added, much to the consternation of their elders, and gay people did
>> the same by proudly using the word "queer."
>> ===============
>> Then in the Magazine section coming out tomorrow, Virginia Heffernan
>> has this more dialectologically oriented mini-essay--it's not every
>> day the Times begins an article by citing Bill Labov:

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