[Ads-l] dude = 'person of any gender'

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Jan 27 21:17:37 UTC 2021

Yes, but I still think it’s significant that the context for “I’m the bad guy”, like that for “I’m the dude who…” is predicative, non-referential, and crucially unstressed. This tends to be the case for most of the other instances (leaving aside vocatives as well as plurals) in which “dude” and “guy” are essentially identical to “person” or “individual”, with no sex specificity, that I’ve encountered, such as the aforementioned “the other guy” (see below), e.g.

Steppenwolf was four people and I’m just one guy.
—actress Joan Allen hosting Saturday Night Live, 11/14/98 (cited in Steven Clancy's 1999 American Speech paper, “The ascent of ‘guy’”) 

"I like sex just as much as the next guy".
--Kate Austen on "Chicago Hope"

they’d have figured it was me because I’m a girl and the other guy is a guy [rwoman explaining why she gave her name to an abusive caller on help line, gratia Steve Kleinedler]
[she’s] my go-to guy [Geno Auriemma, in women’s basketball context]

you’re the chosen guy! [Pike to Buffy on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, original movie]

I like sex just as much as the next guy [female character on TV medical show]

this 46-year-old little guy [see below]

(“Citizen avenger” Heather Peters successfully sued Honda over what she claimed was misrepresentation of the gas mileage she could expect to get in her Honda Civic.  As the ABC news coverage summarized the story, “Nearly three billion in profits and this 46-year-old little guy from West Los Angeles beat the corporate giant.”)

A number of these involve fixed collocations or idioms (the little guy, the next guy, one’s go-to guy), and I think “the bad guy” is certainly in this group, especially in contexts like “Don’t turn me into the bad guy” (as said by either spouse to the other, regardless of sex or gender identification).  


> On Jan 27, 2021, at 2:35 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> See also my WSJ column last September on "dude," which I wrote for the
> release of the movie "Bill & Ted Face the Music":
> Paywalled: https://bit.ly/dudebillted
> Archived: https://archive.is/9fMIN
> Here's an excerpt:
> "In 'Bill & Ted Face the Music,' the words 'dude' or 'dudes' appear more
> than 100 times in the dialogue, usually spoken by Bill or Ted. But this
> time, Bill and Ted are middle-aged fathers of young women who also, as it
> happens, say 'dude' quite a lot -- including to each other, since now the
> term can be non-gender-specific. ... In a 2004 article for the journal
> American Speech simply entitled 'Dude,' Scott F. Kiesling, a linguistics
> professor at the University of Pittsburgh, points to 'Fast Times [at
> Ridgemont High]' and the 'Bill and Ted' movies as key pop-cultural
> disseminators of 'dude,' used by characters who 'take a laid-back stance to
> the world, even if the world proves to be quite remarkable.' In 'Face the
> Music,' Bill and Ted’s daughters carry on that laid-back legacy. Mr.
> Kiesling told me that he watched the movie online with his own daughter the
> day it came out, and he found Billie and Thea’s 'dude'-heavy dialogue true
> to life. 'I have three daughters and stepdaughters, and they all definitely
> throw "dude" around unremarkably,' he said. That’s most excellent, dude."
> Larry mentioned the previous widening of "guy" into gender-neutral terrain
> -- I discussed this in an earlier column, pegged to Billie Eilish's 2019
> hit song "Bad Guy" (in which she sings, "I'm the bad guy... huh?").
> Paywalled: http://bit.ly/badguybz
> Archived: https://archive.is/CTFpT
> --Ben
> On Wed, Jan 27, 2021 at 2:13 PM Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
> wrote:
>> Nice.  The locus classicus for “dude” widening is Scott Kiesling’s 2004
>> American Speech paper of that name.  It would be interesting to revisit his
>> data now to see how much it’s progressed, especially in non-vocative
>> contexts like McCarthy’s.  And it’s also non-referential, which also helped
>> earlier with the growth of sex-neutral singular “guy”. (One of my early
>> examples is “the other guy is a girl”, from a speaker who might not have
>> been as likely to identify a woman as “the guy in the corner”.)
> On Jan 27, 2021, at 12:57 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
>> wrote:
>> Not new, but worth noting:
>>> Gina McCarthy, White House Climate Adviser (age 66), on CNN just now:
>>> "I'm the dude who's supposed to deliver this in a timely way."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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