Friday, February 23, 2007

Hey You Guys

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.”


Marion said...

Hmmm...thought provoking post. I have always felt that the Native American connotation took something away, although wasn't sure what it was.

Guys, now, I use this all the time. I guess I will just turn southerner, and start using y'all.

A great solution, lol!

Sheila said...

Marion is officially inducted as an honorary Southerner. I don't use y'all as many do here, but I appreciate it for the non-sexist nature of it. I'm like you, Marion, and nearly always use "you guys." Too many years of living in the Midwest.

Tim said...

Well, I've actually used many variations, being a native of Chicago, but then spending just as many years in the south. My mother is also from the deep south, so I got "ya'll" second handed, as well. Now, living in Norway, I've got these variations.

Haven't you ever heard "youse guys" or as my grandmother used to say, "you'in" or as in ownership, "that's yer'ins". I think I'm venturing into territory of the whole southern dialect now, though.

As far as "Indians", I don't believe I've ever called them as such. Due to being around so many for various reasons, I've always referred to them as "native Americans" - what else would they be? Indians just never made since, since they're not, in the geographical sense of the word, at the very least. ;)

Sheila said...

Southern dialect is indeed interesting, Tim. I've noticed another quirky Southernism lately. It's "and them," as in, "I'm going over to Aunt Susie's and them." I'm sure you have a bunch too.

I hadn't paid much attention to the Native American vs. Indian issue until recently when there was a story in the local paper about the Indians selecting a Miss Indian Alabama. Up until then, I'd thought the preferred name was Native American. Well, I always believe in calling a group of folks whatever makes them happy. Really, I like to avoid labels altogether for that matter unless there's a reason like identifying a criminal suspect, not that I'm implying Indians are apt to be criminal suspects. I love the old Seinfeld episode where Jerry always tempers his comments about gays with, "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

Dirty Butter said...

Words can certainly tricky. I found very quickly that I'd better not call a group of male children in my classroom "boys"! I got in the habit of saying "fellows." You'd have to be from the South to understand why, I imagine.

Sheila said...

DB, in your case, "you guys" would have been perfect but fellows is great too.