I never thought we Southerners were ahead of the curve, but I think our use of “y’all” definitely fits the bill. Over at In These Times I noticed an article entitled “A Politically Correct Lexicon, Your ‘how-to’ guide to avoid offending anyone.” In the piece, Joel Bleifuss gives readers an up-to-date lowdown on the ever-changing world of what you can safely call various groups and categories of folks. Don’t you like how generic “folks” is?
I latched onto “guys” because if folks would adopt the non-sexist Southern “y’all,” we wouldn’t have to think much about it. Bleifuss says,
Guys: Very controversial. Used, especially in the Midwest, when referring to a group of people. “In Chicago that word gets used a lot,” says Hill. And Baim says, “I use it all of the time.” Some feminists, like Andi Zeisler, the editor of Bitch, find “guys” problematic. “We assume the descriptor ‘guys’ denotes a quality of universality,” she says. “It would be hard to imagine a group of men being addressed by their server as ‘hey you gals’ and not taking offense, but the reverse happens all the time.”
And while I had already noticed, it’s now okay to call Indians “Indians” instead of Native Americans. Bleifuss has this to say about the use of Native American:
Native American: Some Indians object to the term, seeing it as a way to linguistically eradicate “Indian” and thus the history of their oppression by whites. “I almost always hear Native American, and in the more enlightened conversations there is usually ‘indigenous’ thrown in there somewhere,” says Lott. Sen says, “Native American seems to be a more distant construction, developed by academics.”