Male guys and female guys

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I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you before, but it irritates me to hear people use the term “guys” for both male and female. This is something that has especially gained in popularity over the past 25 or 30 years or so. I know it’s a stupid little thing that shouldn’t annoy me. I know I should just shake it off and, as the kids say, just go with it. I know it isn’t a major deal in the big picture of life. I know I’m probably making too much out of this. Still…it irritates me.

For anyone under the age of 50 or so, I will attempt to explain. Once, about four decades ago or so, the word “guy” was an informal term for “man” or “fellow” and was never used in referring to a female. “Guys” was used most of the time in sentences like, “he’s a nice guy,” or “I met a couple of guys the other night,” or “Hey, he’s a pretty cute looking guy,” or “Wow, look at that fat guy over there!”

The wonderful stage show and subsequent film, Guys and Dolls, taken from stories written by newspaperman and short story writer Damon Runyan, was an informal and slang way of referring to men and women. Guys being the males and dolls being the females. The female equivalent for guy used to be gal, but we seldom if ever hear that used anymore. I don’t know if it was women’s liberation or what but for whatever reason “gal” is gone. Now everyone is a guy.

Now think about this. What if instead of the term “guys” being used for both sexes, it was “gals?” So a teacher in high school would say to the class, “Don’t forget, gals, there’s a test tomorrow on chapter three in your book.” That makes as much sense to me as using “guys for both genders. For my money (what little I have) a guy is a guy and a gal is a gal and that’s all there is to it.

…for whatever reason ‘gal’ is gone. Now everyone is a guy.

Here’s another thing, when “guys” is used to refer to everyone, male and female, it sounds juvenile, like a teacher speaking to her kindergarten class. “Okay, guys, it’s time for show and tell.” In my ears it is the lowest informal label to use for a group of people. It sounds a bit demeaning. Imagine someone speaking on stage to an audience and instead of saying, “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen,” saying “Thank you, guys.” Not quite the same level of respect, is it?

What’s interesting though, is that guy is seldom used to refer to one female. For instance, you never hear anyone say, “Jane is a very beautiful guy.” But in groups of females it is all too common to hear one say to the others, “Okay you guys, it’s time to get busy now.” Strange. If guys are an acceptable sobriquet for a group of women, why isn’t it used when referring to just one woman? Perplexing.

Please don’t think I stay awake nights pondering this stuff. Well, wait a minute. Come to think of it, maybe I do. Once in awhile. But someone has to do it so it; might as well be me.

Listen, you guys…oops. Sorry. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of using that term. Listen dear readers, I wish people would stop using informal terms for people. Stop saying “guys” for everybody. While we’re at it, stop saying “folks” for everybody too. Politicians love using that phrase for people. The “folks” this and the “folks” that. Just say people. Stop with the folks.

And I wish those same trite politicians would stop using the term “community” for every group they refer to. The African-American community. The LGBTQ community. The Asian community. The Leprechaun community. The Dumb Bastard community. Enough already! Stop with the communities.

What’s with me? Just what is it that I want from everybody anyhow? Plain talk, my friends. That’s all I ask. Plain talk.

Greg Crosby is a writer and cartoonist and former executive at the Walt Disney Company.  

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