You Guys

night-skyMore and more these past several years I have been hearing from a number of people a dis-like of certain oral expressions that have creeped into the general spoken language when in either an informal gathering or sometimes within a professional group.

Let’s talk about the “you guys” phenomenon. Not many years ago I was corrected by someone in a light way for addressing a small group of people by saying, “You guys seem to be enjoying yourselves.” The funny thing about it was that there were no guys in the group. Oops, that really was not an appropriate thing to say. Since then, I know I’ve slipped and used the expression without knowing, but I have been attempting to keep myself from using it. I have substituted it by saying, “You people” and that seems to fit the bill for nearly all communication within a group of either all men, all women, or the mixture of both.

What little research on did on this, I’ve come to understand from reading about it that this expression was started in Southern California and slowly moved into Hollywood and then out into the general population. Leave it to the Californians to get something started that we Midwesterners have to fix. I understand the Midwest accent, if there really is one, is one that is considered most desirable for the general population’s listening tastes. I dare say I do like listening to Garrison Keillor’s voice on Public Radio. I think I’ve actually heard him us the “you guys” before when telling a story. See what those Californians have done! They’ve even polluted our Prairie Home Companion.

The southern States have their own fix-it to this problem by saying, “ya’ll.” Many of us not living in the South would consider it a bit hickish. I never really considered it so, but I guess perhaps a few stuffed shirts may. Now if you’ve visited western Pennsylvania or encountered someone from there, you would likely hear “you-ens.” Now isn’t that nearly the most charming colloquialism? I could just hear myself saying, “I can’t believe you-ens have been here waiting for me all this time!” Yes, we do have one of the most interesting languages for those poor non-native English speakers to learn, and learn, and still have a hard time understanding some of our quirky regional words and expressions. So, before you open your mouth to say something to a group of people, check to see if the group includes but one female before saying “You guys…”

Joe Chodur

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