Hey guys, read this

Referring to women or mixed-sex groups as “guys” or “you guys” apparently offends a fair number of people. This is interesting to me because I use the phrase a fair amount, especially in class—”Hey guys, now I want you to take out your papers and…”

The problem is that the phrase “you guys” is useful: what non-gendered term could replace it? “Ladies and gentlemen” is old-fashioned, verging on archaic, and “guys and girls” could be demeaning, and I can’t think of a good replacement. “People” or “hey people” is coarse. “You people” has historical/racial baggage of its own—almost enough to have a Coleman Silk problem.

Thoughts?

21 responses

    • I like y’all better but still can’t imagine myself saying it regularly. Then again, I couldn’t imagine myself using a word as ugly as “blog” until it unambiguously took hold.

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    • Agreed. After taking linguistics classes in college, gender neutrality in various languages was stressed. In modern American English, “guys” continues to appear throughout conversation addressing men AND women. Language is fluid and continually changing. Don’t be surprised if your children and children’s children are using “guys” as a gender neutral address to others.

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  1. Well, if I know it is a girls-only group, then I tend to use “Gals” – but then I guess someone who can be offended by something as innocuous a word as “Guys” will probably find that demeaning too. I honestly don’t think this is a topic worth thinking too much about. Another word you could use though, is “folks”.

    And for the record, I am of the female sex !

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  2. I go with “you all” despite being headquartered in Texas where the contraction is totally appropriate. Generally using “folks” works too, but feels rather informal at times.

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  3. Hello, dorks and dorkettes.

    I don’t use “guys” mainly because it would annoy me if someone addressed a mixed group as “chicks.” Accepting one but not the other would be a double standard. Sort of. Maybe a lot of people consider “guys” to be gender-neutral, but I don’t.

    I couldn’t imagine using “y’all”, either. “All” by itself is fine, but with the contraction it sounds too far removed from my dialect.

    Maybe settle for using “everybody” if you just want to avoid giving offense.

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  4. I like “hey guys” too and will probably still use it even if it is perceived as slightly offensive. Too bad, I say.

    But, if you want an alternative, how about “hey everyone” or “hey all” or for small well-known groups, “hey peeps” or “hey gang.”

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  5. I think it’s silly to take offense at this, but people who want to take offense at something will find something to take offense at. If not this, something else. It’s true that “guys” has largely transcended any gender associations it once had (and those were slight in the beginning anyway), but again, it’s probably pointless to try to educate dedicated offense-takers on that score. In your place, I would stick with “guys”, and if one of your students approaches you with a complaint, I’d simply suggest her energy would be better spent concentrating on her grade — but that wearing a shorter skirt wouldn’t hurt either. (Just kidding!)

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  6. Pulling from the wise words of another webertrucker…

    “I think about the term’s parallel usage – what if I walked into a room filled with males and greeted them with (choose one): “Hey gals/girls/women”… many, if not most, heterosexual men would feel as though I had just attacked their
    masculinity. Indeed, many of us hear stories about how male high school and
    college coaches castigate their players with such taunts as “you throw like
    a girl” or how those traits that we value as “female” are not viewed as particularly desirable where institutional power resides. Another way of examining this issue is an essay by Sherryl Kleinman who writes in her essay “Goodbye ‘You Guys'” that if we used “generics based on race rather than gender,” we would see very quickly that perhaps our usage of “guys” could have some damaging effects.”

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  7. Here’s how I do most of my conversations:

    I say what I want to say; people who want to listen do so ; those who get offended are obviously not interested so they don’t matter.

    Works a charm 100% of the time, and I need not get philosophical about trivial things :D

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  8. When I’m speaking to just females, i bite my tongue on ‘guys’ and just replace it with ‘girls’ or ‘ladies’. In a mix gender situation, i try not to say ‘guys’ at all and just phrase is differently.

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  9. How about simply, “Hello. Okay, let’s get started by…” When addressing an audience, they’re already aware they’re the audience, i.e. there’s no need to identify them with anything other than a cordial, “Hello”.

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  10. “Everyone” seems good if we switch the focus from political correctness to good usage…”Guys” was excruciating for me the last time I slipped and used the word — I was setting up an appointment over the phone to discuss admission to a university, and all went fairly well until I slipped and referred to the admissions staff as you “guys”, including the head of education admissions, a female to whom I was speaking at the time…

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