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Then she stopped herself, said she was making an effort to use more gender-neutral language, and carried on talking.

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It was a small self-correction, and a glimpse at the conflicted feelings stirred up by one of the most common greetings in the English language. My coworker is one of many who have started editing themselves in response to this fguys. These are representatives of a broad coalition of people who have contemplated, and often gone through with, excising guys from their vocabularies. Linguistic norms are changing faster than ever. In my reporting I heard from several people who said that the word is particularly troubling for trans and gender-nonconforming people.

I also heard that guys could grate on women working at male-heavy companies. In tech in particular, some told me they saw the word as yet another symptom of a female-minimizing industry. This is likely why, after I put out calls for opinions on guysI heard from many people who worked in education or customer-facing jobs. Many people are trying to phase guys out of their vocabulary in social settings fguys well as at work. This crowd of guys -objectors is not alone historically.

People have been resisting the term for fguys, and perhaps the most passionate opponent of the word is Sherryl Kleinman, a former professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Indeed, why not? The alternatives to guys tend to have downsides of their own.

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Folks —inclusive and warm, but a little affected and forced. Friends— fine in social contexts, strange at work. People —too often pushy and impersonal. Team —its sense of camaraderie wears out with constant use.

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One might cobble together a mix of pronouns to deploy in different scenarios, but no one term can do it all. I also came across some more-obscure alternatives. Some write guise as attempt to fguys the word; I heard about a socialist political group that preferred comrades ; one teacher, to draw attention to the problem with guyssaid she sometimes jokingly addresses her class as ladies or gals.

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It has many of the necessary features to be the heir to guys —inviting, inclusive, monosyllabic. Are you from Texas? And those two things are considered informal, and many people would have less polite things to say about both of those things. Which is one of the reasons the gender-neutral guys has had such staying power.

And fguys, in the plural, it came to mean—in the U. Fguys, perhaps even most, American English speakers view this evolution as a process of shedding gendered connotations. Anatoly Liberman, a linguist at the University of Minnesota, told me about how child started off as a gender-neutral word in Old English, remained so for several centuries, took on a male meaning in Northern England and Scotland, took on a female meaning in other English dialects, and then mostly converged on a neutral meaning again.

So, language can change—and change back. Language evolution tends to be rather random. McWhorter, though, would not bet on the reformers in this guys debate. He thinks that the gender-neutral guys has irreversible momentum. Language changes whether you like it or not. Even if guys is widely regarded as gender-neutral, there will still be a sizable contingent of conscientious objectors. Plenty will disagree with that, and this is the way language evolves—not in an orderly line, but as a messy argument.

And that is a blessing—words deserve regular interrogation. One such interrogator is a man working at a pharmaceutical company in Fguys Jersey who had thought deeply about the use of guys in his office. Popular Latest. The Atlantic Crossword. In Subscribe.


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Definition of 'guys'