Social Question

hearkat's avatar

Are you annoyed by familiar colloquialisms? If so, what are some good alternatives?

Asked by hearkat (22723points) June 28th, 2014

I just caught myself using the phrase, “you guys” to a group of people of diverse ages and genders with whom I’m fairly well acquainted. It bothers me when a server or someone refers to a group I’m with as “you guys”, so I’m a hypocrite for using it out of habit and from lack of a good alternative.

I’m not in the southern US, so, “y’all” doesn’t come naturally, but “you all” sounds awkward. I’m also not a fan of “Hon/Hun”, “Miss/Mister”, “Dear”, “Sweetie”, “Doll”, “Chief”, or “Boss”. I find myself saying, “Dude” often, and referring to younger women as “chicks”. It bugs me when the administrators at work refer to support staff as “the girls”.

I know the collective has a lot of Jellies who have great knowledge of the English language, and also those who oppose gender typing. I’m hoping some can relate to my quandary and offer some useful suggestions and alternatives. Since this topic also touches on the decline of formalities in American culture, I figured I’d put it in Social because it could be and interesting discussion.

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41 Answers

janbb's avatar

“Hey Folks” or “People” kind of work ok as an alternative.

(My Mom who was a feminist in between the first and second waves, strenuously objected to the women in her business being referred to as “the girls.” And if a man called her “dear” she would call him that right back.)

Blondesjon's avatar

The Penguin beat me to “folks”. That is my go to.

You might want to rethink your position on “y’all” because “y’all mufuckas” is another go to I have when appropriate.

Kardamom's avatar

@janbb beat me to the term Folks.

I’m not at all bothered by you guys because it has always had two meanings as long as I’ve been alive for 50 years. It refers to a male, when used in a certain context, “Do you like guys?” but it means everybody when referring to everybody, “How are you guys doing today?” But folks can be subbed for guys if you like the sound of it better.

And don’t forget the even more Southern plural term all y’all. One of my co-workers is from Texas and she distinguishes y’all from all y’all. I love that.

hearkat's avatar

Hmmm… I do use folks at times, but that seems old-fashioned or country or something. I do use y’all casually, and all y’all when I’m goofing around; but I’m trying to find something for use in a more formal setting, such as when dealing with strangers or clients. I’m OK with “you guys” at a casual eatery, but not at a high-price restaurant.

What about if I’m out in public and a 20-something kid drops something, do I call out, “Excuse me, dude/chicka/Sir/Miss”? What if I’m unsure of their gender – “Hey, you”? What if the situation is reversed and it’s me that drops something? Miss or Ma’am? – I’m single, but pushing 50, either is technically acceptable, but both are too formal. You almost never hear “Sir” anymore outside of a military context.

It just seems that there’s something missing in our language. I thought maybe as society has evolved in terms of loosened formalities gender fluidity, the language would have evolved to go with it – but I guess it rakes a while for that to catch on.

janbb's avatar

Folks is folksy but it has a certain retro chic.

hearkat's avatar

It’s hipster to use folksy?

Blondesjon's avatar

If we’re going in context then the timeless “everyone” and/or “everybody” work(s) beautifully.

ragingloli's avatar

How about Mr. Plinkett’s “Hey assholes!”

janbb's avatar

@hearkat Hermione says so.

dxs's avatar

I don’t consider folks to be country or old-fashioned, and I don’t consider guys to refer to one specific gender when used in the case you presented. I never refer to anyone as: sir, ma’am, miss, boy, girl. The first two sound fake, and the last three sound condescending. If I want someone’s attention, I simply say “Excuse me”, or even try to avoid saying that if I can. When referring to gender or sex, I use guy and lady. I would say male/female but those terms are socially awkward. I’m just waiting for the ze pronouns to come into common usage.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Can’t a restaurant server simply ask, “Are you ready to order?” or “Would anyone like dessert?”. Is it really necessary to embellish with “you guys,” “you all,” “you folks,” etc.?

I grew up in the northeast, where “you all” and “y’all” were never used (and would have been mock-inducing). I guess I’m just accustomed to “you” standing alone and being very sufficient.

hearkat's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul – I’m in New Jersey, in a fairly upscale suburban area, and they say, “you guys” even at fairly expensive restaurants. I think it’s becoming more commin over time and with the younger generations.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@hearkat As long as it isn’t “youse guys”!

hearkat's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul – HaHa!! I’m not in that part of NJ!

muppetish's avatar

When it comes to referring to a collective group of people, I follow @Blondesjon‘s suggestion of “everyone” or “everybody”.

In the example that you mentioned earlier of a person dropping an item on the ground, I would probably say “Excuse me, but I think that you dropped this earlier.” I tend not to bring pronouns or titles/honorifics into the equation. I don’t think that it is rude to use “you”. While I have met plenty of people who disagree, I think the “excuse me” is enough to indicate that I mean no offense in addressing them.

I avoid, as best as I can, using gendered terminology such as “miss” and “sir” unless the person I am speaking to requests that I use them. I always try to make it a point to let people know what my preferred pronouns are and invite them to communicate the same.

tinyfaery's avatar

When I need a big group to quiet down and pay attention I just say “Okay, people” in a loud voice. Or just the word people.

dxs's avatar

That reminds me of my fourth grade substitute teacher. A really old lady with a deep, deep voice. To get everyone to shut up she’d yell (emphasizing the “now”): “ALRIGHT NOW!”

stanleybmanly's avatar

For the most part, those colloquialisms are handy shortcuts in relaying information. “you guys” might be gender biased, but it is so prolific and widespread in its usage as defining a group (regardless of the sexual makeup of its membership), that it sounds silly to hold its usage sexist. It’s like stating that the word “pants” is only correct when referring to a pair made for a man.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Hi there, Hi everyone or even G’day but that probably won’t work for you.

JLeslie's avatar

“You” or “all of you” is the best substitute for y’all, you guys, and alike. “Y’all” in many parts of the south is actually singular and “all y’all” is the plural.

I use the words; people, ladies and gentlemen; when addressing groups depending on the group. When I talk about people I do use girls for women sometimes and I know some women find that offensive so I try to correct it when I am with people I don’t know well.

I never use Hun/Hon, Dear, Sweetie, Doll, so I am not even sure what the substitute is. Why are any of those necessary? If I need your attention I can just say, “excuse me.” If I am happy to do something for you I can just say, “no problem, ” or, “you’re welcome,” I don’t need to add a hon to it.

Miss, Ma’am and Sir I rarely use, but do when I am having trouble getting someone attention with a simple excuse me, and I use Ma’am and Sir much more regularly when in the south. When in Rome…

As far as Mister and Miss, do you mean before a first name? I never use that at all unless someone specifically asks me to address them that way. Or, did you mean saying something like, “yes Mister,” in response to a man asking something. I never hear that except in movies. I guess some parts of the states must use it. Sir is more appropriate in my opinion if some sort of something must be said. In the northwest we would usually just reply with a simple yes. In the south some people would feel the yes must be followed by Sir or Ma’am if a child is answering an adult, and adult to adult it just varies on the particular situation and conversation.

JLeslie's avatar

Correction: I wrote northwest when it should be northeast. Or, my ipad did maybe?

hearkat's avatar

@JLeslie – if you typed northest, the iPad could have autocorrected either way. That happens to me a lot, that I don’t even notice what suggestions it pops up. Hopefully the iOS 8 system will be better.

@dxs – What are the ‘ze’ pronouns? I think I recall reference to “hir” as a gender-neutral his/her in long-ago Fluther threads. Language seems like it changes so inconsistently. Slang terms become household phrases in no time, but “Ms.” still hasn’t really caught on (although it’s phonetic similarity to Miss may be the reason for that). I can’t imagine how long it would take for the majority of the population to begin using neutral pronouns.

dxs's avatar

@hearkat It may not happen in either of our lifetimes, but a sociology professor told me about gender neutral pronouns. He also said something about how in the English language (possibly a specific region), certain gender pronouns were created since there used to be neutrality. I can’t quite remember what it was, though.

hearkat's avatar

@dxs – There’s a pretty comprehensive wiki page on gender neutral pronouns. Looking through the list, I am considering the challenges of the phonetic similarities, similar to the “miss” v. “mizz” challenge. I agree that I doubt it will happen in this lifetime.

janbb's avatar

@dxs This has been talked about since the late 60s; I doubt it will happen. At least not in my lifetime since I think there was a wider constituency for it back then.

In my mind there are much more important issues in feminism such as ending date rape, making gender neutral toys, good access to childcare and equal pay for equal work.

muppetish's avatar

It frustrates me that it hasn’t happened yet. It’s not just a feminist issue to me. Binary pronouns create linguistic erasure of non-binary persons. I’m partial to the Spivak pronouns myself (ey, em, eir), but I will always have to be the one to initiate the conversation that these are my pronouns and not everyone has the willingness to comply with my identity.

dxs's avatar

Hmm…are we allowed to use gender-neutral pronouns on Fluther?

janbb's avatar

It just occurred to me that maybe since transgender issues and gender neutral concepts are more in the forefront now, maybe it will come sooner.

muppetish's avatar

@dxs Nobody has corrected me so far :P I have gone by “they” and “their” on Fluther since I joined years ago (and wonderful jellies before me also went by gender neutral as well but they are no longer as active). I certainly would never mod someone for using gender neutral pronouns.

janbb's avatar

I’ve always s/he when I don’t know but i guess that is still binary.

JLeslie's avatar

@dxs In most of the south “guys” being used to address women is considered very rude. I use guys myself, but I am from the northeast. Everything you wrote indicates to me you don’t live in the south.

As far as Ms., I see it in writing all the time and used verbally when addressing someone by name, as in Ms. Smith. I see Ms. Mich more often than Mrs. or Miss. I don’t think Mizz was ever intended to address someone in lieu of Miss or Ma’am used in the absence of a name, but I might be wrong. Miss or Ma’am is used regionally to address a female without knowledge of their marital status. I hope that was not confusing.

hearkat's avatar

I’ve always preferred to use they, their and one for gender neutrality, even before I had much awareness of ‘gender identity’ as an issue, for me it was more about keeping the language ambiguous if no specific person was being referenced.

Miss and Ma’am while less tied to marital status since divorce is so prevalent, are still age-based assumptions. I remember how upset a friend of mine was when a store clerk called her “Ma’am” when we were in our late 20s. I do think. Ms. was meant to be the female equivalent of Mr. in writing and in spoken language.

JLeslie's avatar

@hearkat Right, Ms. is meant to be the equivalent to Mr., and in my opinion it is, and the effort to have an equivalent to Mr. I think was accomplished.

In my circles no one goes around saying, “hey mister,” as I said above, so we wouldn’t say hey mizz either logically.

Miss and Ma’am are age based in a way, but more regional than anything. In NY I am addressed as Miss and in Tennessee I am addressed as Ma’am. This was true when I was 22 or 42.

dxs's avatar

They/Their doesn’t cover everything, though. I use those, too, along with (s)he.
@JLeslie I’m not from the south. Here in New England, referring to groups (men, women, anyone) as “you guys” is considered a colloquialism, not something used to refer to a group of formal special suit people though I wouldn’t put it past myself to use it on them anyway. Like @SadieMartinPaul, natives of my area make fun of people who say “y’all”.

JLeslie's avatar

@dxs I know, I am from the northeast. My point is, you feel the way you do about certain terms because of where you are from. In the south everyone around me often addresses me as Miss J, and Miss firstname to me sounds like a throwback to the segregated south when I hear it, because I am from your part of the country. But, truly it is just etiquette really in that part of the country. To a southerner, a very young person addressing me solely by my first name would be considered rude, even if I have specified call me J. I think it is rude to call me by something different than what I have requested, but as I said, when in Rome…

If you use Ma’am in New England or the northeast everyone knows that person is likely from the south or a military person.

I had a girlfriend growing up in MD who had to address her mother as ma’am in certain situations, and it made me feel like her mom must be very strict and cold. I wouldnt say she actually was cold, but she was ridiculously strict when her children were young, and she used fairly severe corporal punishment until she had an epiphany when her kids were in their teens. It did not help my stereotypes at that time of southerners and insisting on the use of ma’am.

Northerners are perceived as rude and have certain stereotypes assigned to them by southerners simply because of the speech they use. If a child answers a teacher with a simple, “yes,” when called on in the south, that child has been disobedient. Ma’am is as important as please and thank you. The proper response is, “yes ma’am,” or even “ma’am?” for short.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@JLeslie As someone who’s spent most of her life in Virginia, I’ve grown to love Miss Anna, Mr. Philip, etc. There’s nothing segregated about this custom, as people of every complexion and ethnicity get addressed in the same manner. It’s just a way of showing some affection and familiarity while still being respectful to an elder. I’ve also become very fond of Sir and Ma’am, which, again, are nothing more than respectful.

JLeslie's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul I might not have communicated well. I was trying to explain that the use of Miss Anna is regional. It is not racist, I completely agree. I wrote it is a matter if etiquette and respect. I am not saying the southerners are wrong, I am saying each region is simply different. As I said, when in Rome.

The problem is for many northerners the first time they ever here Miss Anna is some black servant yelling after Miss Scarlet in a very famous movie that takes place in the south. In the military Ma’am and Sir are demanded as a way to emphasize the hierarchy in the ranks. Sometimes you hear Miss Anna in nursery school for kids up north, because they feel it that first names are easier for such young children. I never did. Adults were always Miss, Mrs. or Ms. Lastname or simply their first name.

Some of these simple standards for addressing people are odd to the people from the other region of the country. It works both ways. A 40 year old woman from the south might find it very rude that the daughter of a friend in NY did not address her as Miss Anna, but that child is not being rude where she lives. She goes home telling her friends in the south how children up north run a muck and have no respect.

dxs's avatar

@JLeslie I’ve spent about a year in Tampa and I realized everyone goes by “miss” as well and I initially thought the exact same thing as you.

JLeslie's avatar

Tampa I hear both. Tampa has a lot of southerners, midwesterners, and some northeasterners. Oh, and a lot of Greeks. LOL.

You thought which exact same thing?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I do not know if it colloquialisms, but around here what I noticed, is that all of the old African American men are looked at and called ”O.G.”, (which I believe filtered down from ”Old Gangsta”). I just figure when they say to me, ”Hey, O.G. you have a light?”, ”O.G. what time it is?”, etc. they are just politely saying ”Old Guy”, in the short.

hearkat's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central: I thought it stood for “Original Gangsta,” and yes, that’s similar to when I here guys call other guys “Chief” or “Boss”. When the iPhone 3G came out, those of us who stayed with the first model called it the O.G. iPhone.

I don’t mind their use in situations when one is actually familiar with the person/people they are addressing. My complaint is when a stranger uses those phrases; but the formal alternatives seem too stuffy, so I was wondering if there are casual but not familiar alternatives – a happy medium as it were, and ideally ones that are gender neutral.

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