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Posted: 30 July 2007 12:36 AM   [ Ignore ]
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A complainant writes in today’s Guardian:

Please do not perpetuate the myth that it is only “the guys in the white coats” who might be working on a Mac version of the iPlayer for the BBC. Women can also become computer scientists ..........

I take her point but I do wonder how far guys has progressed towards being non-gender-specific. There has certainly been some movement, it’s common to hear, for instance, a girl addressing her friends as ‘you guys’, etc. and has been for many years. Would a woman reader in the US take exception to the phrase quoted above?

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Posted: 30 July 2007 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Some would.

The word still carries a fairly strong connotation of maleness.  Interestingly, as the AHD notes, the sex-neutral sense is pretty much limited to the plural (which your quote uses): “guys” may be persons of either sex, but “a guy” is almost always male.  As long as the latter is true, the plural will probably never completely escape being viewed as potentially referring to a group of males only.

The OED2 does not mention the sex-neutral usage at all (except in the sense of a person of bizarre dress or appearance).

The uncertain sex-neutrality of “guys” does present a problem if the writer wants a markedly informal term (such as “guys” rather than “people") and also wants to avoid offending the habitually offended.  “Folks in the white coats” doesn’t have the same ring to it.


edit: typo

[ Edited: 30 July 2007 09:13 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 30 July 2007 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I don’t know if the expression is used in the UK, but here in Leftpondia, if the “men in white coats” are after you, you’re going to the nut house. I’ve seen “guys in white coats” used to refer to anyone working in a lab, but it would never occur to me to call computer scientists part of the white coat crowd.

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Posted: 30 July 2007 08:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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’men in white coats’ has the same connotations in the UK

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Posted: 30 July 2007 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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What ever happened to the word “gals”? Seems that has become close to extinct. Is it offensive?

Re: white coats. Maybe they should have said “geeks in white coats”.

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Posted: 30 July 2007 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Is it offensive?

It is to me (in Rightpondia). I can cope with being in a group addressed as “you guys”, and will cheerfully assume that it includes both sexes, but “guys and gals” makes me want to thump the user.

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Posted: 30 July 2007 10:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Is there anything we haven’t done before?

One previous thread, and another.

And those aren’t even the ones I was looking for. In one earlier discussion I pointed out that Dutch has the convenient word ‘jullie’ to indicate the second person plural. It comes from an older ‘je lieden’ meaning ‘you folks’. This of course only as far as the ‘you guys’ is concerned.

Edit: fixed first link. for some reason it now only brought up a ‘stripped’ overview page fromn the old board. got this link from cache.

[ Edited: 30 July 2007 11:46 AM by Dutchtoo ]
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Posted: 30 July 2007 10:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Dutchtoo - 30 July 2007 10:31 AM

Is there anything we haven’t done before?

I’m beginning to suspect not. Interesting thread, that second link. I’d forgotten all about the linked discussion there.

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Posted: 30 July 2007 09:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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So “gal” is now unacceptable. I’d like to know why it is. What does it mean that makes it so? Remember, I’m old, and “gal” was not a bad word when I grew up.

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Posted: 31 July 2007 09:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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It was/is often used in a condescending manner. While there are probably contexts where you can use “gal” without being condescending, I’m having trouble thinking of one.

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Posted: 31 July 2007 11:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I has become increasingly difficult to use any word other than “guys” to speak to a group of women or girls in an informal setting. One can’t use “girls” anymore, either. But, for this old guy, I find it difficult to call 20-year olds anything but “girls”. I have used “gals” for years, and not one woman has ever told me it was wrong. I’m getting too old and outdated, me thinks.

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Posted: 03 August 2007 11:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I’m getting too old and outdated, me thinks.

Join the club.  But the nice thing is that when you get to be obviously old and outdated, people cut you slack in these matters because they know you grew up in the Stone Age and can’t help it.

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Posted: 03 August 2007 12:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I’ve come to accept “you guys” but I don’t like “gals;” it sounds condescending to me, too.  I’m doing my best to propagate the Southern US “y’all” which is a handy, non-gender-specific replacement for the lost second person plural.

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Posted: 03 August 2007 01:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Strictly speaking, it was the second person singular that was lost.  But I expect thou knew that.

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Posted: 03 August 2007 03:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Certainly the distinction between second person singular and second person plural has been lost.  I believe that when you is purposefully misunderstood it is more often purposefully misunderstood to be singular.

Edit:

Also, all attempts to correct the failure to address the distinction between singular and plural in SWE have been in the form of an explicit plural.

[ Edited: 04 August 2007 04:28 AM by Faldage ]
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Posted: 08 August 2007 07:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Is there a female equivalent of a “bloke” in the UK?

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