Are Girls Really Guys?
Today we find that new forms of language reflect a change in societal norms and practices. When a culture changes so does its language! Today, people dare to use certain crude, slang, vulgar, and even blasphemous terms that would not have been deemed proper by past generations of respectable people.
When students arrive at class and sit down, the teacher or professor is apt to say to the males and females present, “Welcome, Guys, to class!” When a new group of employees are taken on a tour of the facility, the leader may say to the men and women present, “Are you guys ready for a tour?” When a church youth leader greets the boys and girls or the men and women in a crowd, he may say, “All of you guys are going to have fun!”
Guys? It wasn’t many years ago that teachers, leaders, or managers may refer to the “guys and girls” or the “guys and gals” present. What happened to the girls? Is everyone now a “guy”?
In the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, “guy” is defined in the following way:
GUY, noun gi. In marine affairs, a rope used to keep a heavy body steady while hoisting or lowering; also, a tackle to confine a boom forwards, when a vessel is going large, and to prevent the sail from gybing. guy is also a large slack rope, extending from the head of the main-mast to that of the fore-mast, to sustain a tackle for loading or unloading.
This doesn’t help us much in our efforts to define “guy” in the recent past.
In 1913, the definition has changed:
- A man or young man; a fellow; – usually contrasted with gals or girls as, it was fun for both the guys and gals; the guys were watching football while the girls played bridge.
- A member of a group of either sex, usually a friend or comrade; – usually used in the pl.; as, tell the guys to come inside; are any of you guys interested in a game of tennis?.
We can see that generally, the term “guy” refers to a man or young man or a fellow, and this is in contrast to the female gender, although in the plural it may refer to both.
The WordNet Dictionary has this:
Noun 1. guy – an informal term for a youth or man; “a nice guy”; “the guy’s only doing it for some doll”
Here the term means a youth or a man, in contrast to a woman or girl.
By 1998, we read (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary):
- A man or boy; fellow; 2. Informal. A. a person of either sex characterized in a specified way. . . . Usage. GUY has been used as a reference to women since the 1920a, and today is widely used in many circumstances. This use is sometimes regarded as sexist even when used by women.
Here we find that the primary meaning of “guy” is a man, boy, or fellow. But in usage that is informal, it may refer to either sex. Yet we read the interesting note that sometimes it is regarded as sexist to refer to a girl as a “guy.”
By 2007, we come to this definition (The American Heritage College Dictionary):
- A man; a fellow; 2. GUYS. Informal. Persons of either sex.
We can see that “guy” continues to mean a man, a boy, or a fellow. However, in some circumstances, particularly informal ones, it can be both boys and girls, men and women.
Dictionary.com gives this definition. We might keep in mind that this source is giving definitions according to contemporary usage:
- a man or boy; fellow: He’s a nice guy.
- Usually, guys. Informal. persons of either sex; people:
This suggests that even in our day, a “guy” is a man or a boy, but it can be used to refer to men and women when the plural is used.
Let’s make a couple comments about these definitions over the years. Generally, a “guy” refers to a man, a boy, or a fellow. Yet, in some contexts, particularly an informal or even slang context, it can refer to both men and women.
Our suggestion is this: We want to stay far away from the current “unisex” trend in our “crooked and perverse” generation, it would be better to continue using “guy” to refer to the male gender. There is no ambiguity about this. On the other hand, to use “guy” to refer to a girl or woman, we have the suggestion that the woman is trying to act like a man, dress like a man, talk like a man, or even identify in the category of men.
A further suggestion is in order: “guy” itself is somewhat of a slang term. Would it not be better to refer to men as men, women as women, boys as boys, and girls as girls? This removes all doubt about what we mean. Further it is more of an elevated use of language rather than language that is approaching slang.
Paul the apostle writes, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt” (Colossians 4:6a). Let’s always strive for a better use of language, better terminology, and better ways of expression. This would be in keeping with the “grace-filled” speech we should have.