You Guys?

This week’s Boston Sunday Globe and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette both commented on the debate about whether it’s appropriate to address both men and women as “you guys.”

From the New York Times to modern-day scholars, comments have ranged from it is “demeaning to every lady” to “it’s simply an attempt to fill the hole left in English when we abandoned the singular thou and thee.”

I have to admit that I have a hard time with the phrase “you guys,” but not for any of the reasons that scholars or journalists noted. I certainly would much rather be addressed as “ladies and gentleman,” “Kim,” “Ms. Pegnato,” “team” or even as part of “folks.” In my opinion, greeting others with the generic “hey guys” sounds unprofessional.

It is impersonal and reminds me of the 1970’s PBS show, “The Electric Company,” and Italian mob movies.

The first was a sketch comedy program for children to help them develop their reading skills. It was aimed at kids who had graduated from Sesame Street. Each night the show opened with one of the cast members, Rita Moreno, screaming at the top of her lungs, “Hey, you guyyyyys!!” Each night I would scream along with Rita, and my mom would say it wasn’t polite or lady like.

The latter is self-explanatory. We have all been entertained by movies like “Goodfella’s,” “Bronx Tale” (my personal fave) and of course “The Godfather.” Each portrayal of Italian American families is a little different, but they all share the same dialect that is evident in dialogue-heavy scenes in which “you guys,” and “how you guys doing,” and “what’s up with you guys” is commonplace.

While I don’t think calling your clients or a group of professionals at a business dinner “you guys” is sexist or sets the women’s movement back, it just sounds like slang to me. Coming from someone who has been called “Formal Frank” in the past, I would love to go back to the singular “thou” and “thee” … Bada Bing!

— Posted by Kim Pegnato

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