Guido x 2

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Sat Jan 23 20:21:46 UTC 2010

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).


On Sat, Jan 23, 2010 at 2:20 PM, Laurence Horn
<laurence.horn at>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:      Guido x 2
> 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:
> LH
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