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I’ve had it with you guys. We should see other vernacular formulas. And now, like a carefree sociopathic widower, I’m excited to get out there and try new things
As an informal, first-name-basis kinda guy, I love the easy camaraderie of you guys as a form of address. As in, “You guys, check out this cool new development in straight white male culture!” But over the years it’s leaving an ever staler taste in my mouth. These days, I only let it out under controlled laboratory conditions. And that makes me a bit sad. Or it did.
Fans of you guys point out that although the word guy is distinctly masculine, the plural in you guys or hey guys has long had the gender leached out through constant usage by just about everybody. I’d never address a mixed-gender group as gentlemen or boys or, tempting as it is, lads. For that matter, I axed the habitual ladies and gentlemen onstage several years ago. But you guys really feels gender-neutral to me.
Typical pish-posh from someone born into the privilege trifecta: white, male, and heterosexual — right? Right. Even if four out of five dentists across the gender spectrum agree, obviously I’m the last guy to be deciding what “feels gender-neutral.” So yeah, as much as I love the convivial connectivity of you guys personally, it’s time to let it go.
And letting things go is never easy. Back in the ’70s, people loved their chlorofluorocarbons and wouldn’t dream of spraying their lustrous Farrah hair — or Donna Summer, Rita Moreno, or Buffy Sainte-Marie hair — with anything else. But when the ozone hole threatened to burn all that groovy hair off their funky pates, they figured something else out. In this ungainly metaphor, the ozone layer is gender equality, the groovy hair is your basic human decency, and the phrase you guys is the Aqua Net Super Hold®. Time to dispose of it in an environmentally safe manner.
Fans of you guys point out that although the word guy is distinctly masculine, the plural in you guys or hey guys has long had the gender leached out through constant usage by just about everybody.
I loved you guys. I really did. But I have gone through my Kübler-Ross stages. First, I denied there was a problem: “Oh come on, you guys, really?” Then, I got angry: “How could this happen to you guys?” Next, I bargained: “I’ll only say it while wearing my Pussy Riot shirt.” Finally, I got depressed and mournful and succumbed to existential dread. Oh, wait, no, that’s just my general condition. And now I have come to acceptance. You guys will always have a place in my heart, but I think it’s time we saw other vernacular formulas. It isn’t me, it’s you guys.
And now, like a carefree sociopathic widower, I’m excited to get out there and try new things. Let this be not the death of you guys but the birth of a brilliant new era of linguistic invention. Language is always evolving. Let’s give it an anti-sexist, anti-oppressive nudge that makes more room for everybody. Well, except the nazis. They can suck mein kampf.
There are already several contenders in play:
Y’all is perfect, really, but only if it comes naturally. When I say it it sounds like I’m auditioning for a Herschel’s Ruth’s Chris Steak House commercial.
All y’alls is amazing. A Kentucky friend told me it’s the true plural of y’all, which I guess means y’all denotes your totality as a unitary subject. Slow-smoked philosophical BBQ from the deep south of the mind.
You all is a serviceable alternative for the clinically square. Ask your doctor if that’s you, and steer clear of uncanny icebreakers like, “Morning, you all, what is the manner in which it is hanging?” Speaking of, we need a de-phallic replacement for “How’s it hangin’?” I propose “How they firin’?” which objectifies your tig ol’ neurons.
Youse is excellent for your Prohibition heists, so keep that handy.
Yinz is de rigueur in Pittsburgh. Sneak it in next time you order cheesesteaks for everyone.
You lot is a real contender as far as I’m concerned. “Oi, you lot want to go drive lorries on the left?” We can work out what that’s a euphemism for later. When you’re feeling like a bloody yobbo, give you mob a whack.
Amongst-you will serve you well in Grenada, or to flush out the Grenadians at your next gathering. I’m always looking for efficient ways to generate puzzled looks in quantity, so I’m definitely adding this to my lexicon.
Folks has its uses. Be prepared, though, for people to expect a heartwarming parable. Disappoint them and folks will turn.
People is a solid option for enthusiastic types. To make it more effective, try clapping your hands and getting everybody to line up for dodgeball. Steer clear of you people unless you’re a horrible person.
People of Earth is a great way to get people’s attention from the bridge of an Eviscerator Class Znarglon Battlestation.
Gang can be a cheery option, as in “Hey gang, let’s put on a show in a barn!”
Friends is nice enough in the right context. Otherwise, beware of being taken for a multilevel marketer. Note that Friends, Romans, Countrymen puts us right back in the phallocentric minestrone.
Ladies or gals may be just the thing for you. Personally, I would only use it to address a crowd of homophobic, misogynist man-babies. It’s not a situation that arises much, because I’m not the president.
Comrades, on the other hand, rolls nicely off my liberal pinko tongue. It has a long history as a gender-neutral form of address and a nice ring of rentier-toppling solidarity. Plus, it will piss off your incel uncle who’s into that freaky Army–McCarthy hearing reenactment scene.
My favourite, however — and this is one I really wish I’d come up with — is scholars. It retains the laudatory generosity of a scholar and a gentleman but with the gender scrubbed out. “What up, scholars?” is equally suave at the National Academy of Sciences and your neighbourhood poetry slam. As a bonus, it drips with the perfect, undetected acerbity at the Global Flat Earth Convention.
Nothing will quickly replace the all-purpose breeziness of you guys. Different alternatives will serve in different contexts, and there will be awkwardness. But growth, comrades, is always awkward.
The possibilities are literally infinite, especially if we consider dark-horse options such as asdhgidjdnvaydhfoigghjdnbdgklsgvxxncysfkwbm.
Meanwhile, you guys will doubtless stick around. Tired, old, boring stuff always does, like that super-comfortable, hole-riddled underwear you can’t get anymore.
Those of us forging ahead are in for a bumpy ride. Nothing will quickly replace the all-purpose breeziness of you guys. Different alternatives will serve in different contexts, and there will be awkwardness. But growth, comrades, is always awkward. So be it. That’s where the excitement is. So come on, people, let’s do this! Clap clap! Some of you lot are already hard at work on it and I’d love to hear what yinz got. Ping me with all y’alls’ savoury linguistic BBQ. I especially want to hear from amongst-you, my Grenadians!
Keep ’em firin’, scholars.