“It will not be prudent, you guys…”

New students at Clark University in Massachusetts have been advised against using the expression “You guys” because it is deemed sexist.

Screen capture of Twitter.
Screen capture of Twitter.

No alternative specific gathering greeting is suggested in the New York Times article that tweet references. We know American southerners famously say “y’all.” The British may say “You lot.” (However, reading the article “You lot” may not be acceptable either given its use by someone sometimes suggests the speaker is claiming superiority to the group being addressed.) Or maybe we could go for “Comrades?”

Kidding aside, I do not recall hearing “You guys” when I was in university in the 1980s and early 1990s. It has really taken hold in the last 20 years or so. I’ve never used it seriously myself.

I’d always considered “You guys” slightly more “youthful” than I am. Thus it appears that younger generation that uses it commonly is now no longer inventive. If you are a member of it, you have my sympathy: you too are now part of an “officially” out of touch, older generation. Welcome to the club! 🙂

Sometimes language changes because of overt “re-education” as at a university. More likely it evolves simply because words and phrases fall out of fashion for a huge variety of other reasons. Writing now about the eighteenth century, I’ve noticed so many words and expressions are largely gone from our daily vocabulary.

English may be said to have lost some grace and charm over the centuries. Perhaps even some vibrancy has disappeared. (You may recall I had some fun a few months back on here, trying as a “modern” to pen a letter to someone “230 years ago” in his own “language.”) Consider this: here are some words and expressions from the late 1700s we no longer usually employ in ordinary American conversation:

Expressions of joy
If it could be so contrived
I am therefore inclined to think
It will not be prudent

Indeed it will certainly not be prudent to walk around today talking like that. People once actually said such things. However, if you spoke like that now, though, you would sound like you were auditioning for a period drama. 😉

And that omits obviously sexist terms that are now essentially conversationally extinct. Maybe you “think” these things in your head while observing someone else. But saying these words today in the student cafeteria would possibly get you sent to see the Dean of Students:


It never ends, of course. Someday someone writing a period novel about life in America in “2010” will have characters walking around saying “you guys.” 😉

Have a good day, wherever you are, you lot (but please understand “lot” is not used here to indicate the “superiority” of the writer). 🙂

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