You Guys



I’m wondering how you feel about the ubiquitous phrase you guys. We went to brunch today with another couple: two women and two men. The server repeatedly referred to us as you guys: Are you guys ready to order? Do you guys want any coffee? Is there anything else I can get you guys?

I’m not sure what the female equivalent of guys is. Gals? (I hate that word.) Girls? I’m long past my girlhood. Dolls, as in the great Broadway show? (But ick.)

It’s not as if people don’t recognize two sexes at the table. But if a female-denoting word were habitually to be used to address a mixed-gender group, I’m guessing the males would stifle that immediately. Are women ready to announce they are not guys? Or do we let it roll over us and fuggedaboudit?


Filed under All things having to do with the English language

6 responses to “You Guys

  1. Steve Sharp

    The term “Guys” is probably as generic as it can get these days. I just read that Facebook has 58 gender identities. I personally would have opted for “folks”. I use “folks” a lot when referring to a group of people. Saying “you people” seems a bit off-putting.


    • I agree with much you said, Steven, although I still tend to think of “guys” as referring to males. It has become, as you said, generic, but I find it interesting and telling that generic words referring to people are most often (always?) male, as in the “Gentlemen” you mentioned.

      I was doing a seminar in the South several years ago and was informed by participants that “y’all” was singular and “all y’all” was plural. They said it laughingly, but in fact that was how it was being used.

      I do like the “little ma’am,” though!


    • Fifty-eight gender identities! Are they listed? I’d be very curious to see what some of them are.

      I agree that “folks” seems fine. “You people” sounds like a put-down to my ears. Ick.


  2. Stephen Mesi

    Hi, Judi:

    I’ve adopted the “you all” designation (I’m not from the south but it’s friendly). I grew up in the Midwest and in some of the small towns they say “youse.”

    “You guys” seems like surfer talk from the 70’s but I must admit I still revert sometimes.

    Guess you could also say “you folks” or when a group of women, “you ladies”. The situation is a lot like the “Gentlemen” greeting that used to be ubiquitous in business letters.

    Speaking of “you all” I remember visiting my in-laws in North Carolina a few years back and we were with my three year-old niece in a fast food place. The lady behind that counter looked at my niece and said, “What about you, little ma’am, what would you like?”

    Thanks for bringing up an interesting subject!

    Best regards,

    Stephen A. Mesi
    Deputy Attorney General IV
    California Department of Justice
    EAM Section
    300 S. Spring Street, Suite 1702
    Los Angeles, CA 90013
    Tel: (213) 897-2102
    Fax: (213) 897-1071
    Cell: (213) 713-7181
    [Description: cid:image001.png@01D179DE.E5CA3530]


  3. In a group setting, being referred to as “you guys” doesn’t offend me. But when addressed specifically, I wouldn’t want to be referred to in a masculine sense! I’m sure that just goes without saying, of course. But that’s just my humble opinion, as I refer to groups as “you guys” and never thought twice about it.


    • <>

      Jessica, it seems to me that “you guys” is always used as a plural; otherwise, we’d be referred to as “you guy.” That doesn’t happen. But I was just thinking about a mixed group—male, female, other— being addressed as “you women” or some other female-denoting noun. Even thought “guys” seems to be ubiquitous today, men would startle at being lumped with the females.

      I don’t bother to mention to users of “you guys” that I’m not a guy. But when someone (a man, always) calls me a girl, I then refer to him as a boy. It kind of wakes him up. Temporarily, no doubt.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

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