Guys, Guys: Inclusive Language Is Important, But Let’s Not Warp A Word’s Meaning

Bryan O'Nolan

Bryan O'Nolan

Bryan O'Nolan is the the most highly paid investigative reporter at Ordinary Times. He lives in New Hampshire. He is available for effusive praise on Twitter. He can be contacted with thoughtfully couched criticism via email.

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137 Responses

  1. Avatar CJColucci
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    says:

    Language change is fine as long as it’s old enough. Just don’t bother me with it now.Report

  2. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    Language change is an organic constant process. We should endevour to be respectful to people in the words we use. Changing the words we use to be respectful also needs to be an organic process using the words people already know and use, just in a new manner. Trying to push words people don’t use is always going to be difficult to impossible. Maybe it will happen over the course of many years for just the right word but that will be impossible to figure which is the word that will catch on. For a word to catch on it has to be fresh and rad and the bees knees. Who can predict what that will be.Report

  3. Avatar gabriel conroy
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    says:

    I’m probably speaking only for myself and my own idiolect, or perhaps I’m betraying my (middle) age, but to me, “guys” still has a masculine resonance.

    That said, I agree with most of what you say here.

    I even agree, albeit grudgingly, with your identifying something “puritanical” in the attitudes you’re (gently) criticizing. My agreement is grudging because I think too many people use “puritan” and its derivatives in a (to me) thoughtless way. That’s mostly my problem. Not yours.

    Good post!Report

  4. Avatar Michael Cain
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    says:

    While the word “people” appears several times in this post, no mention is made of “People!!” loudly as a way to get their attention. Or, “Let’s do this, people.”

    I’ve simply accepted “on accident.” Still drives my wife crazy.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Lamarckian Evolution is a hell of a thing.

    The main thing to keep in mind when you see someone trying to force a particular meme is that this stuff tends to work organically or not at all. Attempts to force it in the short term *MIGHT* be able to work? But it’ll wander away back to something more useful the second it stops being policed.

    At the same time, the really, really useful stuff will bubble up and be adopted despite the best attempts of the Académie Américaine to prevent it from doing so.

    “Dude” will remain a gender-neutral term for at least until the Gen Xers die out. Not even the generation that follows the Zoomers will be able to stop it.Report

    • Avatar Fish in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      In other words, stop trying to make “fetch” happen.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Fish
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        says:

        I was thinking about this today as I was making breakfast and considering the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. Remember the effort a few years back to problematize the song? They even came out with a “Consent is Important!” version.

        As it turns out, the “Consent is Important!” version sounds like a guy just trying to get back to playing Playstation after a hookup but the woman just won’t leave.

        And people will be listening to Baby, It’s Cold Outside for decades.

        And the Consent is Important! version will be brought up only by people mocking it.

        You can’t make “fetch” happen.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          Honestly if people want to drive this from the public consciousness, what they should do is record a version with one woman doing both parts by herself…Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck
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            says:

            Woman singing to Mister Pickles why he can’t go outside onto the porch even though she lets him sun himself from late-spring through early-autumn.

            *MEOW*
            “Baby, it’s cold outside.”
            *MEOW*
            “Baby, it’s cold outside.”
            *MEOW*
            “Baby, it’s cold outside.”Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      My son calls his mother, “Dude”. I think dude will be gender neutral for a while.Report

    • Avatar Kristin Devine in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      I still harbor resentment I wasn’t allowed to be an Ordinary Gentleman. 🙁Report

  6. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    You guys should all feel free to push back, but these are the same arguments as “Gay means ‘happy'” and “Ms. sounds like it comes from Gone With the Wind”.Report

  7. Avatar gabriel conroy
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    says:

    I agree with those who state that new terms need to develop organically in order to take hold.

    But there are certain, limited and bounded arenas where terms can be imposed, at least for the short term. In my field, which is academic-adjacent, “inclusive” language is almost de rigueur. Someone who insists on using non-inclusive language and not respect others’ pronouns can face some sanction.

    To be clear, that person would have to be jerk about it, and use non-inclusive language in a particularly flagrant, chip-on-the-shoulder way before undergoing any sanction. And the sanction itself would be (mostly) light, more like shunning. But it could affect performance reviews.

    How durable such changes are or can be? I don’t know. But it’s not wholly ineffective to impose them in those arenas. I also find that the movement to inclusive language is not therefore wholly benign. It’s not the worst thing ever, and “oppressive” is way to strong a word. And it’s designed to effect change in a good direction. But it is constraining in a way that can be a little stifling. Maybe good comes out of it, though.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to gabriel conroy
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      says:

      I think a lot comes down to what field you are in. I work in a court and am, by profession, a mental health professional. Using insulting and demeaning language would be punishable. Which is just the way it should be. Duty of care and responsibility to treat all citizens properly matter. If i worked in a McD’s that would be different. Should still treat people well but the duty is lessened. It seems like academic fields have a duty to treat all people with dignity.Report

      • Bryan O'Nolan Bryan O'Nolan in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Agreed, by the singular them/they for a person of indeterminate gender gets my hackles up. I use them because that’s what people expect to hear and, just like with guys, the process of acceptance is for all intents and purpose complete.Report

        • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Bryan O'Nolan
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          says:

          I’m a reluctant convert to the singular them/they. It grates on my ears.

          Of course, I realize that usage has been attested for centuries. However, I strongly suspect it existed alongside of the “universal he” or “he or she,” or perhaps other variants I’m unaware of.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to gabriel conroy
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            says:

            “Your Momma’s So Fat, They Use Plural Pronouns” is how “they/them” always hits me.

            But I am a bad person.Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              You’re using it with respect to a specific, known person. Do you have any problem with the way “Someone left an umbrella in the lobby. If they come looking, it’s at the guard station,” sounds?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain
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                says:

                Oh, when it comes to some amorphous person out there, they could be anybody! They could even be two or three people? Plural makes sense to me in that case.

                And it’s certainly a lot less clunky than the “he or she”, “him or her” construction we used in the 90’s.Report

              • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Michael Cain
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                says:

                That’s part of the rub. The version of singular they/them that’s been attested for centuries was probably that: reference to an unknown person. It wasn’t a desire to include people with non-conforming gender and sexuality presentations.

                So I get it when people say “it’s been used for centuries” when other people say, “singular they/them is a neologistic travesty that displaces the god ordained universal he/him.”

                But using singular they/them for inclusivity, as opposed to accuracy, is a novel use. It’s not necessarily wrong for being novel, but it needs to be advocated for on with the recognition that it is novel.

                (Also, those, like me, who resist it ought to just lighten up and decide how much of our habits we’re willing to change or not change in order to be more welcoming.)Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to gabriel conroy
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                says:

                The style guides have started allowing it. When I was writing for the state legislature a decade ago, our internal addendum to the Chicago style guide called for it. (Although we tended to overuse nouns for clarity anyway.) I suspect that we’ll all get used to the singular they long before we adopt anything like ze/zem/zir.

                If English could survive dropping gendered articles, all the hints about cases, and the Great Vowel Shift, it will survive this.Report

              • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Michael Cain
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                says:

                Using the singular they for persons of unknown or irrelevant sex has been attested for centuries and is well-nigh universal in speech, as opposed to formal writing. I don’t use it in formal writing myself, though I frequently use it in speech, but that’s just me and I have no wish to impose my own preferences.
                A few decades ago, a trend started toward more common acceptance of singular they as an alternative to the “universal” masculine form. (“It” never caught on.) I have now seen it so used in well-edited books from established publishers (Oxford University Press, to take an example I have seen recently) and expect it to become routine in formal writing in my lifetime, which hasn’t that much longer to run.
                Singular they for specific persons of non-binary sexual identity is, of course, new, and, for that reason, grates on people, including me. Still, when face-to-face with a person who prefers that usage, I rank politeness above my stylistic druthers. There are people who get extremely worked up about this, and there are words for that, but, again, I prefer politeness.Report

              • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to CJColucci
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                says:

                This is exceedingly nitpicky on my part, but my stylistic druthers is to avoid plurals more than not. For some reason, plurals grate on my ear. That’s totally a personal preference. (It’s also not absolute. For example, I just said “plurals” when I could have probably said “the plural.”)

                For that reason, I probably would prefer the “he or she” construction over the singular they, even though I don’t like “he or she.” I also realize that “he or she” doesn’t do the work that the newer uses of the singular they supposedly do.Report

              • Avatar CJColucci in reply to gabriel conroy
                Ignored
                says:

                That’s not nitpicky at all. My own stylistic preferences are fairly conservative, and when it’s just about me, or an implied reader with no strong views on the issue, I follow them. When it’s not just about me, however, well, it’s not just about me.Report

              • Bryan O'Nolan Bryan O'Nolan in reply to CJColucci
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                says:

                In my teaching career, I have worked with a few trans students. My attitude had always been to accept what the kid wants to be called and preferred pronouns and then make as little of a deal of it as possible. The kid’s got enough going on without me putting on a show. The only times it has gotten weird is if the parents refer to the kid by birth name and gender. Tread lightly there. School isn’t about my opinions, but teaching and learning skills, which is tough enough as it is.Report

              • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Bryan O'Nolan
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                says:

                I’ve never consciously had to deal with that before in my (very brief) teaching career. (As a TA and later adjunct, so I was dealing with adults; from what you say, you’re dealing with younger students?) I’m sure that statistically there were non-binary students or transgender students, but they didn’t bring that fact to my attention. And that was all before we were expected to be sensitive to all that.

                To be clear, it’s probably a good thing that we now face that expectation. Maybe there are points on the margin where things are taken too far, but in general, it’s probably good to be aware. And your approach seems like a good one.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Michael Cain
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                says:

                I suspect that we’ll all get used to the singular they long before we adopt anything like ze/zem/zir.

                Continuing this just a bit, I am surprised that by now I have seen so little speculative (ie, set in the future) fiction using gender-neutral pronouns like ze/zem/zir.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to gabriel conroy
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            says:

            Me too.

            I was proofreading my daughter’s resume the other day and suggested that she replace “he or she” with a singular “they”. “But Dad,” she responded, “You taught me not to do that!”Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Bryan O'Nolan
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          says:

          I get why people find they/them odd though it seems fine to me and a very minor stretch. At least they/them are words we typically use. “Theydies, famjam, etc are trying to get people to start using new and/or unfamiliar words. That is always an uphill struggle. It won’t be long before “they” as a singular seems normal. Calling co-workers kitkats or snickerdoodles….well i’m not sure about that.Report

          • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to greginak
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            says:

            Agreed on all points.

            I could also see how kitkat and snickerdoodle could be used in, er, expressly non-inclusive ways.

            I’ve probably commented too much on this thread, but I’ll add another thing. All the talk about inclusive language has at the very least heightened my awareness for the need to make some people feel welcome who I might not otherwise have thought about. Even though I’m not wholly onboard, and even though I often fail to me my own (by comparison to many, very lax) standards, I think it’s at least important to consider those issues.Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to greginak
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            says:

            If I ever called a female employee “snickerdoodle”, I’d be hauled off in cuffs.Report

      • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to greginak
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        says:

        We do have that duty, and if that’s all inclusive language is for–to fulfill that duty–then I have no well-reasoned objection.

        The requirement to use such language, and the specific terms and practices we’re supposed to adopt, seem to be not wholly, or not solely, in line to that purpose. There’s just something about it that in my view, goes too far.

        However, I’m likely just rationalizing my discomfort at changing some of my habits. I also realize it’s impossible to hit the exact perfect sweet spot with these sorts of things.Report

  8. Avatar Pinky
    Ignored
    says:

    “Bimbo” is an affectionate Italian word for child (masculine). After it arrived on our shores, its meaning changed to simpleton – including punch-drunk boxers – then innocent, then naive or gullible woman.Report

  9. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    We can get all French Revolutionary and just refer to people as Citizen. Or go in a more Soviet direction and use the term Comrade.Report

  10. Avatar DavidTC
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    says:

    The fact you don’t want ‘guys’ to be a gendered term doesn’t make it _not_ a gendered term.

    And the fact is…it is a gendered term. That’s simply the truth.

    Everyone who is thinking this article has a point needs to ask themselves not if they’d be _okay_ with ‘guys’ being used to refer to women, but whether or not their assumption of the meaning of the word guys, sans any people standing to clarify the usage, would include women.

    I.e., if you walk up to someone, and they say “A bunch of guys just went through here.”, you would almost certainly think that person meant a bunch of men, correct? Or, at best, a bunch of men and maybe a woman or two.

    99% of people would understand it that way.

    So, when people say it’s ‘gender-neutral’, they don’t actually don’t think that. They _think_ they think that, but they do not actually think that.

    What is really going on is: People who say that don’t _see anything wrong_ with using a generally masculine term to refer to people. They think it’s fine for terms to be gendered as male by default, but it’s okay because you can often see they aren’t men, or the person will clarify it.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to DavidTC
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      says:

      Meh, other languages have group terms that are gendered male and or female. So. Fricking. What.

      Context matters. Yes, I’d assume that the majority of people in a group would be men if “guys’ was used, unless I knew otherwise, but majority doesn’t mean single sex. If there’s one woman in a group of 50 it’s a mixed group.

      On a side note, since I think my previous post got stuck in “mod hell”, I fail to understand why anyone would be paying attention to twitter 1) at all, 2) for what some rando “doctor” has to say about the word. It’s most likely an appear to authority and I’d discount it 100% if the individual didn’t have a PHD in a the relevant subject matter, and I’d discount it 95% if they did, because 1) it’s twitter and 2) how I speak to other is is none of their damn business unless they know me.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Damon
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        says:

        If people were just using ‘guys’ to mean ‘men’, that would be fine.

        The problem is the people trying to argue that it’s become gender-neutral, when it’s not. That’s merely a way it _can_ be used.

        There are words that have made the transition to gender-neutral, and ‘guy’ is arguably on the way, but it’s always a very long process and only succeeds either because:

        a) people actually deliberately changed the language, aka, ‘actor’ and ‘aviator’, removing the female versions of those words.

        b) or the gendered alternative was way _way_ too unwieldy, like one of the few terms that started out as a female term and became gender-neutral, ‘scientist’. (Which was coined as the female version of ‘man of science’, and everyone immediately said ‘Hey, wait. Why don’t we just use that one?’)

        With guys…neither of those is going to happen.

        People are trying to do (a), but a fundamental part of that is removing the other options from public use. And the problem is: ‘women’ and ‘ladies’ are not going to disappear as terms, whereas ‘actress’ almost has…or at least, a large amount of ‘actresses’ describe themselves as ‘actors’.

        And I don’t think the people trying to make this a gender-neutral term understand that for this to succeed _by sheer argumentation_, they’d basically have to remove gendered terms from existence. (And all the other non-gendered ones!) People don’t describe themselves as ‘guys’, that’s just not how it works.

        And the word is so informal, people can’t make any sort of top-down process involving authorities, like how feminists petitioned to have newspapers call ‘actresses’ ‘actors’. (Although I guess this article, technically, is exactly that sort of petition.)Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to DavidTC
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      says:

      I think it depends on the grammatical person. In third person, it’s almost always male. In second person, it’s gender-neutral. This is not merely an application of a general principle that plural male nouns can be applied to mixed-gender groups, as people don’t usually use, e.g., “gentlemen” to address mixed-gender groups. This is specifically a property of “guys.” I’m pretty sure it’s even used by women to address groups of women sometimes.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        If I asked my wife if she calls a group of women “guys”, you know what she’d say to me?

        “Why are you asking me such a pointless fecking question? Who cares? Did you read about this on some internet blog?”Report

        • Bryan O'Nolan Bryan O'Nolan in reply to Oscar Gordon
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          says:

          I didn’t suggest that it was okay to do so. The question at hand was whether or not guys could be acceptable when addressing a mixed gender group of people.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Bryan O'Nolan
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            says:

            IMHO it’s un-gendered enough that I don’t think too much about it, but it’s not quite to the neutral position something like “people” is.

            But I sure as hell am not going to use the ridiculous suggestions from the good doctor.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        It’s not anything to do with second or third person. If it was, then people would understand themselves being addressed differently than a group of others they could see.

        I.e., you just said that, if you saw someone say ‘Guys let’s go’, and you were in a mixed-group, you would understand it different than if you stood to the side and watched them address a mixed-group.

        You don’t, obviously.

        The difference is that _sometimes_ you can see the connotation is not true, so it must be used in a broader sense. (This is almost true when you yourself are in the group.)

        And other times you cannot see the group, so assume the connotation still holds.

        That’s how connotations work. People assume the word means one thing, but understand perfectly when it’s clarified it doesn’t.

        And the question is, does this connotation cause people to think in certain ways?

        Does it cause people to think certain ways _even when we can see it’s not true_?

        The answer is…it actually does. Connotation are actually really important how we frame things in our head and society.

        Here’s a fun fact: We already had a word that operated like that. It was ‘man’. You could address mixed groups as ‘men’, you could use ‘man’ or ‘mankind’ as a general term to refer to all of humanity, etc.

        We stopped doing that, for a reason. We didn’t try to argue that the term actually included women, because, yes, it _could_! But it’s still a bad term to use, because it frames a group of people as ‘men (with maybe some extra women who aren’t important enough to mention)’.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to DavidTC
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          says:

          It’s not anything to do with second or third person. If it was, then people would understand themselves being addressed differently than a group of others they could see.

          I.e., you just said that, if you saw someone say ‘Guys let’s go’, and you were in a mixed-group, you would understand it different than if you stood to the side and watched them address a mixed-group.

          That’s not what grammatical person means. Person is determined by the relationship between the speaker and addressee. Bystanders are irrelevant. When someone says “Guys, let’s go,” that’s second person, regardless of whether I’m in the group that’s being addressed.

          Also, I’ve never heard of “men” being used in second-person to address a mixed group. I’m aware of the other uses you describe, but not that one. Of course, just because I’ve never heard of it doesn’t mean that it’s never happened, or even that it was never common.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg
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            says:

            That’s not what grammatical person means.

            I stand corrected, you are right, that isn’t different grammatical person.

            Except, and I had to google this because it was confusing me…we’re not talking about grammatical persons.

            What ‘guys’ is used as, in the way you’re talking about using it, is called a ‘noun of direct address’. And you can use those in any person:

            ‘Guys, I just had to walk two miles’
            ‘Guys, you need to do this thing’
            ‘Guys, they’re getting away!’

            It’s an interjection, offset by commas, that indicates who you are talking to, and it has no grammatical relationship to the rest of the sentence.

            So the question is: Does the connotation of gender that ‘guys’ has change when it becomes a noun of direct address, or is it because, when people use a noun of direct address, you can see who they are addressing, so connotations don’t matter?

            So, two questions: Do any literally other nouns change like this?

            I.e., is there any word where you could say ‘NOUN, we need to go over that hill’, but then later couldn’t say ‘NOUN went over that hill’, because the NOUN has a different connotation when used as a subject instead of a direct address?

            Any word besides ‘guys’? Because if there isn’t one…language probably doesn’t work that way. And I’m seriously asking this question, I don’t know.

            Second question: Does the connotation change even when you can’t see who is being addressed, like I asked?

            If there is an unseen group of people that being addressed as ‘guys’, does that have the connotation of being male? Do you think it does?Report

            • Bryan O'Nolan Bryan O'Nolan in reply to DavidTC
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              says:

              My thinking on your first question is: maybe? I have to think on it more. But, also, I suspect that more analogs could be found if gender were not the variable in question. So, “Are there nouns which change their connotation when becoming nouns of address?” (perhaps, instead of {presumed?] gender, there was a question of social standing or familiarity, for example.)

              Question two asks us a VERY interesting question on the distinction between a group of people of indeterminate gender (there are people, I don’t know if they are homogenously a gender or not) and a group of known, mixed gender. My gut says that, from a grammar and usage perspective, these are the same thing but I could be totally wrong on that.Report

    • Avatar Kristin Devine in reply to DavidTC
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      says:

      Of course, the circumstances in which one says “hey guys, let’s open our manuals to page 37” and “did you see a group of guys come through here” is entirely different but hey, let’s not let context get in the way of anything.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Kristin Devine
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        says:

        Yes, because the meaning of words famously varies based on…uh…something there, not really sure what. I would say ‘a question’, except you made it a question, my example was not.

        The ‘circumstances’ you are arguing is that if the group being referred to is clearly a mixed group, then obviously guys is being used that way. Which…yeah, that’s how connotations works…actual reality will override them. They’re still there.

        But let’s pretend you have a point, and there’s some ‘contextual’ difference. So let me present just one context:

        Starting a new job (So you have no context of how this individual uses the word ‘guys’ and you have never heard them use it before.), you meet a man who, vaguely waving his hand in the direction of six people, four who are men and two who are women, he says ‘Ask one of the guys to set up your login, whoever’s not busy’

        Was he talking about only the men, or men and women? One of the women is free, should you go ask her? But he’s still standing right there, and you don’t want to embarrass yourself by asking someone he didn’t tell you to ask.

        You’re arguing this is understandable from ‘circumstances’, please explain which way this goes?

        If he means all of those people, what he’s actually done is set up a situation where _some_ people will misunderstand him. Maybe you won’t, but if he’s referring to groups as ‘guys’, some people will think he only means men, and assume women aren’t included.

        If he only means men, then…he’s part of that group and will misunderstand other people.

        Here’s the thing: We actually have forms of different address, and different pronouns because people don’t always know who we are talking about. We have words can refer to groups comprising of just one gender, and words not restricted like that.

        He could have said ‘those men’ to refer to just the mean, or ‘them’ to refer to them all.

        What we shouldn’t use, and shouldn’t pretend is gender-neutral, is a word that has _one_ connotation, but also is _sometimes_ used to mean something else. Which is a really good way to accidentally, or even ‘accidentally’, exclude women from things.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DavidTC
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          says:

          The worst part is when women aren’t on board with this stuff. There’s no way to explain it to them without condescending to them.

          It’s their fault, really.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            So, to recap the story so far:

            We have 1 woman (Doctor Krystal Evans) using her experience as a woman to say she is uncomfortable with being called a specific thing.
            We have 1 man (Byran O’Nolan) asserting she should be comfortable with it because it’s a gender-neutral term.
            We have 1 man (me) asserting the last man to speak has said something untrue about the gender-neutrality of the term.
            We have 1 woman (Kristin Devine) disagreeing with the facts I said, making absolutely no references to any of her own experiences, or how she feels personally. She disagreed solely with my statement about a word and its connotation.
            I repeated what I said, and gave a different example.

            Just for people keeping score at home, there is, in fact, a man talking over a woman in that summary.

            It’s the part where a woman says ‘This thing makes me uncomfortable’, and a man steps in and says ‘No, people don’t really mean it that way, you should be fine with people doing that.’.

            That is textbook talking over women, and ignoring their experiences. And it was posted on the front page here as an article!

            This article didn’t have to reference Doctor Krystal Evans at all, It didn’t have to dismiss her concerns, it could have just been a defense of the word ‘guys’ without framing it as ‘This women shouldn’t dislike this thing’. But…that’s how it was framed.

            And then you tried to call me out for merely disagreeing with what a word means.

            The commonly understood meaning of ‘guys’ is not something specific to the experiences of women. We all speak the same English…or we speak regionally- and environmentally-different English, but we generally speak the same English as someone in our position but of a different gender.

            Now, if Kristin said she, as a woman, felt a certain way about being _refered to in a group as ‘guys’…I couldn’t dispute that…and in fact have not. But I can dispute the connotation of the word as used commonly, even if a woman disagreesReport

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DavidTC
              Ignored
              says:

              We just had an example of this in the recent Turkey Rain threat linking to WKRP’s famous Turkey Drop episode.

              Someone in comments said “This joke is not as funny as everyone seems to think it is.”

              A simple sentence, right? It does a bunch of little things.

              It asserts a metaphysical truth about the humor value of the joke.
              It asserts that everybody misapprehends this truth.
              It’s got a hidden assertion that the speaker of the sentence has correctly apprehended the actual humor value of the joke (and it’s of a lower value than everyone else has).

              All of that! In one simple sentence!

              Without seeming to contemplate what those assertions look like written down.

              Now, if I were to completely dissect the joke, I’d talk about the cultural values inherent in humor, how the context for this joke does not only rely on the 3 minutes (or whatever) of the clip but also was presented in the context of it being the seventh episode of a Sitcom. We’d already spent 6 1/2 episodes with these people and part of the joys were seeing them react to a new wacky situation.

              On top of that, a handful of people know that the turkey drop is based on a real life event (though it was a tractor trailer, not a helicopter).

              And on top of *THAT*, there are a whole bunch of people who saw the episode at the time (or, later on, in reruns every Thanksgiving during the early 80’s) and were watching it with 80’s things going on… for a lot of GenXers, that means “as a kid, with family”. So there is not only the humor in the skit but also a bit of nostalgia from having laughed at the bit before.

              Now, does the joke have an actual truth value that we can hold up to the chart? No, of course not. There are people who see it and think “oh, my gosh! What a horrible made-up situation!” and they laugh because it’s fake.

              There are people who watch it and recognize the trope “you get a decent comic actor, you have him claiming to be witnessing an event, you have the camera tight on him (AND NEVER TURN AWAY), and just have him describe the horrible things happening” and you can get away with a Stan Freberg-level “let’s see them do *THAT* on television!” joke.

              There are people who watch it and think that violence is not funny. Not violence to people, not violence to animals, not violence to automobiles. This is a skit that relies on the gruesome killing of animals in such a way that terrifies a small community.

              Which wraps us back around to the original criticism.

              “This joke is not as funny as everyone seems to think it is.”

              Is it? Or is it as funny as everyone seems to think it is and the person who uttered the sentence is the one who has misjudged the joke?

              Which brings us to “guys”.

              There is a cultural context to “guys”.

              It’s related, tangentially, to the whole “LatinX” thing. Spanish, you see, has this weird “gendered” thing going on. Apparently it’s had this gendered thing going on for a while.

              Like, if you’re referring to a group of guys who are your friends, you call them “amigos”. If it is a group of gals who are your friends, you call them “amigas”. If it is a mixed group, the term switches to “amigos”.

              Any 8th grader taking Spanish will tell you that this applies to groups with overwhelmingly female representation and a SINGLE guy in there. Throw a guy in a group of Amigas? They become Amigos!

              This applies to Latinos as well. A bunch of guys? Latinos. A bunch of gals? Latinas. Put them all together and, suddenly, you have Latinos.

              That’s not fair, you might think. “LatinX!” is the solution a handful of people thought was appropriate.

              The problem is that LatinX people tend to not like being called LatinX. (I can find charts of this, if you want). A handful of people proficient with the whole social justice language game pointed out that this was cultural imperialism. College Educated White People going into a Brown People language and started telling them that they’re doing it wrong, they need to change. Even those who see a weird thing going on with the transformation of the -as suffix to an -os suffix look at “well, let’s change the vowel to something that changes the entire word!” as a bad thing. “Latina/Latino” is easy to say after all.

              How is “LatinX” pronounced? Lah-teen-echs? Lah-TEEN-echs? Lah-tinks? Each of those is a reasonable guess based on looking at the word. A word that is no longer a Spanish word, but an English word.

              “Guys” is sort of like “Amigos”. As far as I can tell, it works the exact same way in English as “Amigos” does in Spanish. You’ve got a bunch of guys? Guys is fine. You’ve got a bunch of gals? Guys is inappropriate. You got guys and gals? Well, we’ve got guys again.

              And, much like the LatinX community, there are a bunch of English-speakers who react to these College Educated White People coming in and saying “you need to change how your language game works!” with less than perfect enthusiasm.

              Indeed, some of them even push back!

              But, much like with humor, there’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of cultural context. There’s a lot of stuff bundled together.

              I, personally, see a lot of value in looking at language through the Wittgensteinian Game lens. (Heck, culture, for that matter.)

              And seeing people come in and ask (or demand) that the rules for the game change is always going to be fraught.

              And if one of the moves is to say “this long-standing tradition…” (where “long-standing” is defined as “how I learned it when I was a kid”) “needs to change and changing it is a Moral Question and if you don’t change you’re being immoral and, yes, if you don’t *AGREE* that it’s a Moral Question you’re being immoral!”, then we’re going to find ourselves in a thread like this one.

              Where people make moves against each other where they’re claiming that NO! I’M THE ONE ACTING MORALLY AND YOU’RE THE ONE ACTING IMMORALLY!

              Whether it be through appeals to feminism, sexism, racism, cultural imperialism, or whatever happens to be the ascendant move to make in the game this week.

              Lamarckian Evolution is a hell of a thing.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                ThisReport

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Whether it be through appeals to feminism, sexism, racism, cultural imperialism, or whatever happens to be the ascendant move to make in the game this week.

                And that’s really what it is. A heads I win tails you lose game without any rational weight behind it. The only way to win is not to play, at least not on those terms.Report

              • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I hadn’t realized the WKRP scene was based on an actual incident.

                For LatinX, I mostly agree with you, except that I don’t really like it when people throw accusations of cultural appropriation, so I’m a bit chary of using that against others. (I realize you said “cultural imperialism” and not “cultural appropriation,” and you perhaps didn’t mean “cultural appropriation.”) Also: while I am concerned that me and people like me who aren’t Latino might not have a lot of business telling people to say “LatinX,” I also realize I have spite as one of my motivations. On some level, I just want to be contrarian and not give in what I take as the requirement that I use “LatinX.” (It’s not really a requirement, but it is a general expectation. If I were a jerk about it and always made a point to say Latino instead of LatinX so as to make it clear I wasn’t only saying Latino but also announcing my refusal to say LatinX, then I would be called to task, but otherwise I’m not “forced” to say it.)

                Similar thing with BIPOC. I think it’s presumptuous of me to claim that all black persons, indigenous persons, and persons of color must identify together as sharing the same interests when perhaps not all of them believe that they do. I insist that my feeling that it’s presumptuous is honestly come by. At the same time, there’s a less than kind, more close-minded part of me, that wants to be contrarian and refuse to use it simply because it’s expected of me. (And it’s expected of me in the very mild way that LatinX is a requirement. I’d have to take my refusal to use BIPOC to an extreme before I’d even start to face negative consequences.)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to gabriel conroy
                Ignored
                says:

                Given that “Cultural Imperialism” is close enough to “Cultural Appropriation” for it to be confusable, let me cheerfully amend it to “Colonialism”.

                I think that “BIPOC” was a term that someone came up with because they wanted to say “White People and White Passing People” without being accused of antisemitism.Report

              • Bryan O'Nolan Bryan O'Nolan in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                This, and also I’d point out to Gabriel Conroy that Latinx is deeply unpopular in the community it purports to describe. In fact, College Campuses were the only place that looked approvingly at it, iirc. Cruel irony to be required to insult people as a way to be inclusive.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Bryan O'Nolan
                Ignored
                says:

                Yet the LA Times chose it for the newsletter with Latino/a oriented stories they started this month. I have seen polls suggesting that in California “Mexican-American” is the preferred term, in Texas “Latin-American” and in Florida “Spanish-speaking.” I don’t recall seeing anything about what the NYC and Chicago metro areas think, despite being two of the six biggest groupings.

                Complicated.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                You’re actually agreeing with me while somehow thinking you’re disagreeing. Again, my actual post is saying ‘It is not a gender-neutral term’. That’s it. That’s what my post you responded to said.

                I didn’t say anything in that post about it being immoral, or that people needed to stop using it. So it’s weird you immediately went there…by saying I was condescending…by me pointing out it wasn’t gender-neutral…which you just agreed with.

                I did point out, in a different post (One you couldn’t just randomly assert I was condescending to a woman in because it wasn’t to a woman) that how we use language _matters_. So let me repeat:

                We need to stop using the term ‘female doctor’. Yes, it’s a simply descriptive term, it’s a woman who’s a doctor, but using it causes people to think in a way that isn’t really helpful, causing them to think of that as a separate category than just being a doctor. Same with ‘male nurse’, or making a distinction between ‘actors’ vs. ‘actresses’. That phrasing is very bad, and it impacts how we think about the world.

                Oh, wait, sorry, wrong terms.

                Using terms that mean ‘This group has men in it, and might incidentally have some women also.’, is bad. It causes people to think and operate as if ‘male’ is the default, and a single man getting added to a group is much more important whatever the number of women already exist. That phrasing is very bad, and it impacts how we think about the world.

                …which is why we are talking under a post trying to claim that guys is gender-neutral. It tried to argue that what I just said wasn’t what was happening. That the term _doesn’t_ have the connotations of ‘male’.

                You, OTOH, just accepted it was, but think that’s fine.

                And the fact you have to drag in another culture, and the problem of white people stepping into that culture, just shows how thin your argument is, because the problem there isn’t actually a gender-neutral term, the problem is some idiots imposing one from the outside, one that is disliked and doesn’t really work.

                The fact that Latino and Latina works that way in Spanish is also a problem. A ton of our entire Western culture built on top of sexist assumptions. It doesn’t magically stop when you wander out of English.

                In fact, languages like Spanish that give everything a gender are…an interesting discussion about how people think using them, and there are indications that it actually causes more sexism. It’s actually a bad idea overall to gender everything.

                But I don’t (and I assume you don’t) have the right to tell Latinos what they should do there. Spanish speaking people will eventually come up with a gender-neutral term for themselves, and they have a right to do that. They might even come up with a general gender-neutral suffix and and de-gender their language.

                But guess what? Last I checked, I’m part of American culture. (I’m even in the Real `Murica!) So I do have the right talk about what _it_ is doing. Especially since…I’m not inventing a word, or telling people they can’t use a word, I’m simply saying ‘Stop using one specific word in one specific way’.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                And the fact you have to drag in another culture, and the problem of white people stepping into that culture, just shows how thin your argument is, because the problem there isn’t actually a gender-neutral term, the problem is some idiots imposing one from the outside, one that is disliked and doesn’t really work.

                Here’s the wacky thing: I think that we, as a nation, have dozens of cultures.

                People seem to want to wave that away for some reason. I think it has to do with power dynamics.

                Anyway, when you point out that “Amigos/Amigas” works a certain way in the Spanish language, and you point out that Latino/Latina works a similar way, and then you point out that LatinX works a particular way… it’s hard to not see rhymes with how we ought to call groups of people “Snickerdoodles” instead of “Guys”.

                Are you speaking to your own culture or to another one? Does that matter? To what extent are we allowed to try to change cultures that are not our own? (This last problem evaporates if we ask “can we change our own culture, of course… of course we can! We can change it so much that people who fit in it yesterday don’t fit in it today! And then it’s no longer their culture!)

                The fact that Latino and Latina works that way in Spanish is also a problem.

                I’m not a fan of French numbers, myself.

                But I don’t (and I assume you don’t) have the right to tell Latinos what they should do there.

                Here’s where we disagree. I have the right to tell them that what they should do. I can tell them whatever I want.

                What I don’t have is the ability to be correct when I say that they should change. (Or, at least, to know whether I’m in the ballpark of correct.)

                Spanish speaking people will eventually come up with a gender-neutral term for themselves, and they have a right to do that. They might even come up with a general gender-neutral suffix and and de-gender their language.

                See? This is something that I don’t know.

                I think it’s weird that you seem to know it.

                How do you know it?

                Especially since…I’m not inventing a word, or telling people they can’t use a word, I’m simply saying ‘Stop using one specific word in one specific way’.

                Knock yourself out.

                What happens when someone exercises their right to say “No”?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                “This last problem evaporates if we ask “can we change our own culture, of course… of course we can! We can change it so much that people who fit in it yesterday don’t fit in it today! And then it’s no longer their culture!”

                Remember “sexual preference”?Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Here’s the wacky thing: I think that we, as a nation, have dozens of cultures.

                Yes, but…I somewhat have a feeling you sorta are thinking about them differently. We have a dozen different indigenous cultures. And cultures of different races, different languages, there are some national origin enclaves that are culturally seperate. If that’s what you’re saying, yes.

                Other stuff, like geographic divides, is more technically ‘subcultures’ of the ‘White American culture’. But…that’s the terminology quibble.

                Anyway, when you point out that “Amigos/Amigas” works a certain way in the Spanish language, and you point out that Latino/Latina works a similar way, and then you point out that LatinX works a particular way… it’s hard to not see rhymes with how we ought to call groups of people “Snickerdoodles” instead of “Guys”.

                Yes, structural problems, including various forms of patriarchy, in the group of cultures we call ‘The Western World’ are often somewhat similar! Mostly because cultures blend, and at various points we have all been under the same influences like the Catholic Church, and the Rome Empire. We often have the same ideas about things, which is why we have invented a term to describe that, the ‘superculture’ of ‘the Western World’.

                Here’s where we disagree. I have the right to tell them that what they should do. I can tell them whatever I want.

                What I don’t have is the ability to be correct when I say that they should change. (Or, at least, to know whether I’m in the ballpark of correct.)

                This is two odd claims. First, you assert you have the _right_ to tell them things that you, yourself, agree you cannot tell if are correct or not about.

                I think you’re arguing legal rights here, whereas I mean moral rights. Yes, I have a legal right to tell brain surgeons how they ‘should’ do brain surgery, despite the fact I am completely aware I have no knowledge there. But…I’m pretty sure, morally, that I shouldn’t, just in case they take my advice, with disastrous results!

                Your other claim is the idea that you (And, by implication, everyone else.) can’t even vaguely know if any suggested changes could be good things in other cultures.

                No, what people sometimes can’t be sure of is whether or not their suggestions would _lead to_ the outcomes they want. But that, of course, is true of literally every change.

                The only difference is that people know less things about another culture, so should be correspondingly warily of stepping in.

                I can definitely say, in my framework of morality, a way for nonbinary Spanish speakers to refer to themselves is a good thing. And, while less obviously good, a gender-neutral term to use _in general_ would be a good thing.

                I just don’t have the right, or the capacity, to try to make that happen. So I shall be totally hands off, and let _Spanish_ activists do it, and support them if some way to do that presents itself.

                Asserting that you _can’t ever_ know something is bad within another culture is the worst sort of moral relativism. It’s pretty easy, in this interconnected world, whether or not specific cultural practices are hurting people within them, because the complaints of those people can be found.

                Are you speaking to your own culture or to another one?

                I believe the question is: Is the person on _Twitter_ talking to their own culture or not?

                Under your own ideas of culture, who was this person talking to?

                While I’m not entirely sure, I think possibly some guesses could be made from just looking at the tweet: Guys is not a not an inclusive term for addressing a group. . . Here’s [sic] some alternatives to try. #inclusion #InclusiveTerms #genderneutral

                And my guess would be: She is addressing some part of the feminist and/or LGBT subculture that _cares about_ being inclusive.

                What happens when someone exercises their right to say “No”?

                Then presumably the person making the request will eventually block them on Twitter, I guess.

                I dunno, what do you do when your friends keep calling you a term you asked them not to?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t really know how to distinguish between “subcultures” and “cultures” when it comes to the whole “it’s okay to change them!” thing.

                We often have the same ideas about things, which is why we have invented a term to describe that, the ‘superculture’ of ‘the Western World’.

                I kinda see a rhyme of that with the whole British Empire thing.

                Like in the “I’m not sure that it’s a 100% unalloyed good” sense.

                First, you assert you have the _right_ to tell them things that you, yourself, agree you cannot tell if are correct or not about.

                Yes. I have the right to say things.

                So do you.

                I even have the right to say *WRONG* things.

                So do you.

                Your other claim is the idea that you (And, by implication, everyone else.) can’t even vaguely know if any suggested changes could be good things in other cultures.

                It’s more that I was making the point that I need to keep in mind that I might be wrong. “Hey! You should change! You should be more like me!”

                Maybe other people should change to be more like the speaker. Maybe they shouldn’t.

                But one main thread I’ve seen in the pattern is that precious few meditate upon “how likely is it that I am wrong about this?” first.

                So that’s what I think that other people should do.

                They should meditate upon “how likely is it that I am wrong about this?” first.

                I understand that there are downsides to doing this. It might prevent someone from giving good advice.

                I think it would prevent bad advice more often than it would prevent good advice, though.

                I suppose I’d have to do a cost-analysis of how likely the bad advice would be to be taken vs. the good…

                Is the person on _Twitter_ talking to their own culture or not?

                The person on Twitter is talking to multiple cultures, including their own.

                Then presumably the person making the request will eventually block them on Twitter, I guess.

                I dunno, what do you do when your friends keep calling you a term you asked them not to?

                On Twitter, they’d get blocked/muted.

                IRL? Well, we’d have to have a conversation, wouldn’t we?Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t really know how to distinguish between “subcultures” and “cultures” when it comes to the whole “it’s okay to change them!” thing.

                It’s very simple: You are allowed to make suggestions for things that are part of the cultures you are a member of. Whatever level you want to call culture or subculture or whatever.

                The English language, culturally, is not even ‘American’. The ‘cultural ownership’ of English as a whole, is basically shared across what used to be part of the British Empire and they ended up with those people in charge. (Or however I should phrase that to not include India.)

                There are certain parts of English that are uniquely part of American culture, or part of British culture, or Australian cultures, or Canadian cultures. There are even regional, or even ethnic or racial subcultures, that have their own parts of English.

                And those parts would be wildly inappropriate for me to complain about. For example, AAVE, or complaining that Britain called elevators ‘lifts’ or other Americans called soda ‘pop’. (Well, except we joke about those last two things, but that’s poking fun, not actual criticism.)

                Note: What I am about to refer to as ‘feminism’, notably, _also_ happened across all these cultures at once, due to the shared language. In fact, when that word, I really mean ‘English-cultural feminism’, I’m just speaking from the POV of someone in that culture so don’t need to say that.

                They should meditate upon “how likely is it that I am wrong about this?” first.

                The assumption that people haven’t ‘thought about’ asking people to transition to gender-neutral language is so absurd I don’t know where to start. Gender-neutral language has been a part of (Again, English-speaking) feminism since second-wave since an essay called ‘Desexing the English Language’ was written in the early 1970s.

                So we have been talking about this for half a century, the concept that ‘sexism in language’ helps cause ‘sexism in thought’. At this point, it’s a broad sociological concept, not just inside feminism but has escaped outside, with tons of studies supporting it. And we, and by that I mean, everyone, has been doing this since the mid-80s.

                It’s the reason we don’t have ‘stewardesses’ anymore.

                You’re essentially wandering up to a skyscraper that’s halfway built, identical to dozens of other skyscrapers, and asking, ‘Hey, are we really sure this is going to stay up? Have you all sat down and thought about this?’

                This is some epic level concern trolling you’ve got going on there.

                On top of that, what hypothetical concern do you even _have_ there? What bad thing happens when people use the term ‘people’ instead of ‘guys’? (Crap, I guess I accidentally just made those bad things happen!) Or even if everyone starts using one of the silly terms in informal speech?

                The person on Twitter is talking to multiple cultures, including their own.

                No, they aren’t. Everyone on Twitter is only talking to their own followers, not random people who see retweets. That’s how Twitter works.

                This is a tweet they themselves made, and not any sort of response or anything. So the assumption would be that they are talking within the context of their own culture, or some sort of subculture or combination that they are part of.

                How exactly do you think Twitter is supposed to work? Everyone is supposed to prefix every tweet with a detailed disclaimer of who they are, and what groups they are talking about?

                What she tweet is an entirely appropriate suggestion for her to make _to her own followers_.

                But not only that, it would be an appropriate suggestion for the general English-speaking culture we are assuming she is part of, because she is part of that culture and thus can attempt to change it…but she didn’t even do that!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                You are allowed to make suggestions for things that are part of the cultures you are a member of.

                This is, I suppose, why gatekeeping is a thing.

                Oh, you’d like to suggest changes? Say “shibboleth”.

                “I think that it’s really racist of you to ask me to say sibboleth. Sibboleth! Sibboleth! Now change!”

                There are certain parts of English that are uniquely part of American culture, or part of British culture, or Australian cultures, or Canadian cultures. There are even regional, or even ethnic or racial subcultures, that have their own parts of English.

                And those parts would be wildly inappropriate for me to complain about. For example, AAVE, or complaining that Britain called elevators ‘lifts’ or other Americans called soda ‘pop’. (Well, except we joke about those last two things, but that’s poking fun, not actual criticism.)

                We’ve already established that we think that Spanish should change.

                What’s the difference between Spanish and AAVE?

                Note: What I am about to refer to as ‘feminism’, notably, _also_ happened across all these cultures at once, due to the shared language. In fact, when that word, I really mean ‘English-cultural feminism’, I’m just speaking from the POV of someone in that culture so don’t need to say that.

                From what I understand, there’s a lot of kinds of feminism. Indigenous Feminism is the first to come to mind. There are others.

                If I look at your Feminism and think “This Is White Feminism”, would that be an appropriate critique?

                Going back to how Spanish needs to change, it certainly seems that you haven’t decolonized your Feminism.

                On top of that, what hypothetical concern do you even _have_ there? What bad thing happens when people use the term ‘people’ instead of ‘guys’? (Crap, I guess I accidentally just made those bad things happen!) Or even if everyone starts using one of the silly terms in informal speech?

                I think that if everybody up and chose to do something, there’d be no problem.

                I’m very much down with people up and choosing to do things.

                It’s when the changes are forced that I have a problem. Two problems, really. The first is aesthetic, the second is practical. The first is that the forcing is unpleasant. The second is that it doesn’t strike me as likely to work (and if it works, it’ll work only if policed and the moment the policing ceases, it’ll spring back, like a rubber band, to the old way).

                This is a tweet they themselves made, and not any sort of response or anything. So the assumption would be that they are talking within the context of their own culture, or some sort of subculture or combination that they are part of.

                Hey, everybody. We, as a society, should change! We should X!

                Wouldn’t you know it, someone responds with “I don’t think we should change.”

                Is “I wasn’t talking to *YOU*” an appropriate response to the response?

                My answer to that rhetorical question is that “it depends” but if one is a sociologist making the proclamation on twitter, essays, retweets, and comment sections seem an appropriate response to the original tweet.

                Here is a proposition.
                How do we feel about it?

                It seems odd to say “you shouldn’t be discussing the proposition! She wasn’t talking to *YOU*.”

                What she tweet is an entirely appropriate suggestion for her to make _to her own followers_.

                It absolutely was and I would argue with anyone that says that it wasn’t!

                But there is a difference between me saying “it was inappropriate for her to propose the proposition to her followers” and me saying “I disagree with her proposition for a couple of reasons.”

                Me saying “she’s wrong” is not me saying “she’s bad”.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                We’ve already established that we think that Spanish should change.

                What’s the difference between Spanish and AAVE?

                Let’s be clear here. I didn’t say Spanish should ‘change’. I said a gender-neutral term (Both a personal word and demonym) is ‘needed’, simply so they can refer to people correctly. Languages have to be able to interact with the rest of the planet. Which means they need those terms.

                It is not my place to suggest what those terms should be. In fact, my ‘need’ is not really a moral position, any more than saying me saying ‘Navajo needs a term for computer’ would be one. (Which it already has, just to be clear.) That’s me saying that, in a practical sense, the language needs that term, because languages should be able to describe things that actually happen.

                Now, morally speaking, I do have an opinion: I think it will be better once this happens because there are people currently having their identity at least disrespected by lack of it. But…again, there are Spanish activists working on this.

                From what I understand, there’s a lot of kinds of feminism. Indigenous Feminism is the first to come to mind. There are others.

                Going back to how Spanish needs to change, it certainly seems that you haven’t decolonized your Feminism.

                *deep sigh*

                Spanish is the language of the colonizer.

                Spanish, and Spanish culture, is what erased indigenous cultures, in pretty much every country south of the US. Spanish colonialism has erased almost as many indigenous cultures as English. In fact, the Spanish managed to erase cultures more completely, as the English tended to segregate from the natives and force them into reservations, which paradoxically helped preserve their culture, whereas the Spanish just moved in and seized control.

                And as for Indigenous Feminism, I don’t know much about it. But of the few things I do know is that a large premise of it, a large reason it exists, is that they think that mainstream feminism is utterly disconnected from indigenous reality, and only really cares about middle- and upper-class white women in wealthier societies in the global north. (They were not the only women to notice this, and honestly a good chunk of the different forms of feminism are people pointing that out. Hence, intersectionalism, which is sorta a meta-concept about that.) So the question of whether ‘guys’ should be used is probably not on their radar. They don’t care.

                If I look at your Feminism and think “This Is White Feminism”, would that be an appropriate critique?

                It would be appropriate, but it would not be an appropriate critique, as I said I was talking about white feminism. In fact, I was specifically talking about white _British-descended_ feminism, as I said. (Or, as it’s often called, ‘mainstream feminism’, but that’s a bit vague sounding, and people can think it means ‘the current beliefs of across society about feminist issues’ so I tried to be clear.)

                You seem to think the fact I explicitly acknowledge my framework is somehow something to criticize me over. Pointing out that other frameworks of feminism exist doesn’t accomplish anything unless those other frameworks would have a different position on ‘guys’..

                I know other frameworks exist. (It would be extremely odd for me to define my framework if I didn’t know that!) And as far as I know, most of them would be completely silent on this. In fact, I’d be very startled if Indigenous Feminism said much about the English language _at all_, and where it does, it probably cares more about race than gender.

                My answer to that rhetorical question is that “it depends” but if one is a sociologist making the proclamation on twitter, essays, retweets, and comment sections seem an appropriate response to the original tweet.

                She is not a sociologist. The article itself says she’s in hard science, and her Twitter bio says ‘Scientist. Executive. Pharma. @GSK_AU. Innovation Champion. Bad Feminist. Science Communicator. [Rainbow flag] Living on Wirundjeri land. All tweets are my own. She/Her’ (@GSK_AU is an Australian healthcare company.)

                She didn’t even create the image she posted, it’s a stupid meme image with a bunch of silly non-gendered informal terms.

                She basically posted something that was a completely obvious fact, the fact that the word ‘guys’ is gendered, and thus not inclusive, and the entire internet jumped on it.

                Let me quote myself: This article didn’t have to reference Doctor Krystal Evans at all, It didn’t have to dismiss her concerns, it could have just been a defense of the word ‘guys’ without framing it as ‘This women shouldn’t dislike this thing’. But…that’s how it was framed.

                I have no problem with someone here writing an article about whether we should use guys for a mixed-group, and, indeed, talking about just that usage was how I started this discussion. That was all I was going to talk about.

                It’s you who decided to bring up me hypothetically being ‘condescending’ to a woman…on a post that is literally just leaping on to an internet pile-on on a woman stating a fairly bland truth.

                “What she tweet is an entirely appropriate suggestion for her to make _to her own followers_.”

                It absolutely was and I would argue with anyone that says that it wasn’t!

                You didn’t. The actual article we are in called her suggestion Orwellian. You didn’t argue with it. I mean, you didn’t agree, but you didn’t say anything.

                Or do you think ‘Orwellian’ does not imply ‘inappropriate’?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                I guess I didn’t understand what you meant when you said, let me copy and paste this: “Spanish speaking people will eventually come up with a gender-neutral term for themselves, and they have a right to do that”.

                See, because, I don’t know that Spanish speaking people will come up with such a term. I mean, I don’t know that they *WON’T*, of course…

                I mean, I’m also not arguing over their right to do so, should they choose to do so…

                I just saying that I don’t know that they will.

                How do you know that they will?

                This is a serious question.

                Or do you think ‘Orwellian’ does not imply ‘inappropriate’?

                For what it’s worth, I think that “Orwellian”, at best, implies prematurely appropriate.

                Hey. How many fingers am I holding up?

                Until I tell you, please don’t pretend to think you know the answer.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                How do you know that they will?

                In the way that all languages invent terms to be able to refer to everything.

                You seem to think me saying this says something about _Spanish_. I’m not saying anything about Spanish. I’m saying something about _language_.

                You keep saying ‘How can you be know’, and it’s like we’re in 1903 watching the Wright brothers’ flights and you’re asking me ‘How do you KNOW the English language will invent a term for flying-through-sky-things?’

                Because…those things now exist in English-speaking areas and need to be called something?

                Languages don’t keep an inability to say things they need to say. Not living languages.

                And Spanish has needed this for a while, and thus, people speaking Spanish are already have invented a way. I present Spanish speakers talking about the president of Argentina using the word ‘Argentine’.

                https://twitter.com/porquetendencia/status/1241790871869296647

                Argentine is not a ‘real’ Spanish word, because -e is not a ‘real’ Spanish suffix. Try typing it into Google translate as a Spanish word, you get no response. Argentina, yes, Argentino, yes, Argentine, no.

                That -e on the end is a proposed gender-neutral suffix. One that notably, is being pushed by a bunch of Spanish speakers. Including the president of Argentina.

                Other people, also notably, are calling him out for this. They don’t want to change.

                But people can’t really stop languages from changing just because they don’t want it to.

                The question isn’t ‘Will Spanish do this?’, the question is: Which proposal will be widely accepted (Probably this one because the only other serious one was a confusing ‘@’ proposal.), and how long will it take?

                Because, again, there is a need. And where there is a linguistic need, someone eventually invents a way…actually, a bunch of people do, but at some point, everyone decides on one of them. (Or…different areas agree on different ways, like airplane vs. aeroplane.)Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Jaybird, that was too many words. It’s confusing. I don’t like it, I can’t understand it. Why can’t you just say what you mean, clearly, so that I can tell you you’re wrong without having to think so hard?Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            And…*deep breath*, here goes:

            There’s an additional problem with saying ‘Men disagreeing with women in any context on anything even vaguely related to feminism will be called out as if they are doing something wrong’: It demands everyone out themselves.

            Like, oh, me.

            I’m nonbinary.

            I figured this out about two years ago (Or something like that, time has no meaning anymore.), partially because of talking to people on this very site, and I’m actually out to very few people. Almost no one in real life, and very few people online except Twitter.

            But congratulations, this bullshit made me out myself. I’m nonbinary. My pronouns are still he/him. For now. We’ll see in the future.

            Now, what does everyone who has misunderstood what ‘men talking over women’ think now? How do the rules work now?

            I mean, I can say, as a nonbinary person, that ‘guys’ officially does not apply to me, and only another nonbinary people can dispute that sort of thing. Right?

            That’s how that works, correct? I can just say things, or at least anything that have to do with nonbinary people or affects us in any manner, and no one can argue against those things or they are being ‘condescending’ to nonbinary people?

            Or, maybe, instead, you can start listening to what I’ve been saying about what talking over women actually is, and how it isn’t the same as disagreeing with them in general, it’s ‘disagreeing’ with their feelings and experiences. That’s it. That’s what should be called out. You will notice I have not, in any manner, disputed any feelings or experiences of anyone.

            Whereas this article is literally doing that to a woman as its very premise!

            In fact, I might be the only person in this discussion who can even _articulate_ what the actual problem even is, because I seem to be one of the few people here plugged into modern feminism. Or even, like, third-wave feminism.

            This entire comment section is full of posters who have no idea why misgendering people or using masculine terms for groups could present a problem, both at a group level of how people in that group feel, and a societal level of expectations of the importance of various people.

            In fact, it’s got men asserting the woman who complained about being uncomfortable as just being ‘too sensitive’, and ‘if women were offended by me doing this, they never told me’.

            Holy. Sh!t.

            You guys (Hey, I used the word!) are…I can’t even _get into_ the sheer level of sexism I see in this discussion. I’m deliberately not getting into those parts of the discussion, because they are really pissing me off.

            …and yet Jaybird thinks it’s funny to pretend (Or maybe he actually thinks this) that I’m being condescending to women.

            And I am sitting here staring at this ‘Post Comment’ button for an hour, wondering if I’m really going to post this, and out myself as nonbinary. Or, like last time this nonsense came up, I typed it out then deleted it. Actually, I think this is the _third_ time I’ve written this post. And one other post where I tried to point out this dumb logic where men are not allowed to have different opinions from women on certain topics forced people to out themselves _without_ quite outing myself, which I also deleted.

            Will I finally out myself this time?

            Apparently yes. I really am that angry at this bullshit, and the actual level of sexism on display in this discussion.

            Here goes.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DavidTC
              Ignored
              says:

              and yet Jaybird thinks it’s funny to pretend (Or maybe he actually thinks this) that I’m being condescending to women.

              It’s more that I think it’s funny to inject “yes… this is a moral discussion… BUT IT IS YOU! WHO! IS! BEING! IMMORAL!” into a discussion where the morality of the discussion hasn’t yet been agreed upon in the first place.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                At the end of this all, for me it boils down to, “Methinks thou dost protest too much.”

                Is ‘guys’ gendered? Yes.
                Is ‘guys’ gender exclusive? That depends.
                Is it a problem? The fact that one woman declares it a problem does not make it a problem, as such. It’s obviously a problem for her (although her alternatives are such a joke that I’m not entirely sure she actually sees it as a problem, are we certain some Poe’s Law isn’t at play here?), but is this on the order of exclusionary use of personal pronouns?

                As I and InMD have both shown, our respective spouses, both women (and mine is quite liberal) think it’s a silly question.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                “Does feeling something strongly create a moral obligation in others?” is one of those questions that we don’t explore enough.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Not by itself, no. You gotta do the work of arguing why it should create a moral obligation.

                Remember, morals are the rules we agree to live by, not rules that are imposed. Thus a convincing argument must be made.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                The weird thing is that it *CAN*. Kinda. Maybe.

                Anyone who has ever apologized for misgendering a friend’s pet knows this.

                There is a weird dynamic where we agree that certain kinds of feeling bad are bad and there is an obligation of sorts to avoid that sort of thing. (It’s just that other kinds of feeling bad are Justice In Action and trying to argue that other people shouldn’t feel that particular flavor of bad is a defense of Evil Itself.)Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Perhaps we should first hash out the line between “moral obligation” & “being polite and not a dick about it”.

                Moral obligation is to society, being polite is to the individual.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                One of the recent election-related shenanigans that happened was that one of the also-rans went to a local college and was doing a Q&A with the students. One of the students wanted to talk to the also-ran about gender and the also-ran asked the student about the student’s pronouns.

                The student explained that the student did not use pronouns.

                At which point I saw that the discussion was no longer about semantics but about syntax.

                I don’t mind arguing semantics. I will argue semantics all day. You want me to pick up a burden of proof? HELL YEAH, I WILL PICK IT UP! TAKE IT OVER HERE TAKE IT OVER THERE.

                Syntax? If you’d like me to change syntax the burden is now on you.

                And I am 100% sympathetic to arguments that people ought not be dicks. But there are a lot of ways to be a dick.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                But there’s no moral obligation to be polite and not be a dick about it.

                It’s good manners, and has all kinds of beneficial knock off effects, but it’s not an obligation.

                Hell, probably 50% of free speech complaints these days are people who don’t want to be polite but still want the benefits that accrue from it.Report

              • Avatar Slade the Leveller in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                I think most religions would argue to the contrary on the moral obligation thing, but I’ll agree 100% with your last sentence.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Slade the Leveller
                Ignored
                says:

                Again, depends on what we are calling a moral obligation.

                This parallels the whole morality versus matters of taste discussion.Report

              • Avatar Slade the Leveller in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                I can’t think of any religion that doesn’t have some version of the Golden Rule.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Slade the Leveller
                Ignored
                says:

                There’s the golden rule and there’s submission to the whims of a bunch of self-appointed pharisees.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to InMD
                Ignored
                says:

                The creator of the Golden Rule was a Pharisee.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Schilling
                Ignored
                says:

                But was he self-appointed? Or did he earn his place?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                That’s why he wasn’t sad, you see?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Slade the Leveller
                Ignored
                says:

                Golden Rule, while a rule I try hard to live by, is not a moral obligation. It’s an encouragement to personally treat manners as a moral obligation, but it’s meant to foster that obligation internally (I have set the Golden Rule as a personal rule for how I behave, it is not imposed upon me).

                The proof is that while religions have similar rules, breaking the golden Rule won’t get you kicked out of the club.Report

              • Avatar Slade the Leveller in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                How about John 13:34, which is to my mind another way of putting it? The so-called New Commandment.

                (Kind of getting in the weeds here.)Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Slade the Leveller
                Ignored
                says:

                Had to look that up.

                Personally, all for it as an aspirational goal. Something I can mostly do, although some people make it really hard.

                Not sure it works as a moral obligation. At least not without some limits (should I love my abuser as I love myself?).Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                What does get you kicked out of the club? Certainly not bearing false witness, and there’s a Commandment about that.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Schilling
                Ignored
                says:

                Well it’s supposed to, damnit! Kinda hard when the guys at the top engage in it regularly.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                Kinda hard when telling lies about people has been one of your chief tactics from the start.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Schilling
                Ignored
                says:

                At this point, aren’t the Falwells essentially a cult?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                Falwell Sr. remains the template for the Christian Right. Falwell Jr. is just a sleazy grifter.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                But there’s no moral obligation to be polite and not be a dick about it

                Again, not obviously true. Being impolite causes psychological distress. We have at least some pro-tanto obligation not to cause others’ psychological distress. This pro-tanto obligation can of course be overridden by certain considerations (e.g. burdensomeness etc) but if a person is being a dick (as characterised by a certain level of gratuitous unpleasantness)
                then very obviously she is doing something wrong.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Murali
                Ignored
                says:

                Except that line of distress isn’t a line, it’s a vast field. What you find rude and offensive I may find amusing, and I may behave in a manner I believe to be polite, yet still give offense without intent.

                The person who is intentionally rude or whose manners are obviously disingenuous, is a cad, and as a society, perhaps, we have a moral obligation to NOT extend to them the benefits that accrue to politeness, but they have no moral obligation to be polite.

                As with most of this kind of thing, the key here is intent, which is very tricky to always determine, and thus no one wants to. I think our modern, commercial obligation to tolerate rudeness (e.g. rude, demanding customers are tolerated and catered to, rather than being told to leave; rude and demeaning persons are tolerated in private-public spaces, etc.) has made many of us much less willing to suss out intent, which is not a good thing.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                We can obviously wrong people without intending to.

                Moreover, intent rarely, if ever, changes the wrongness of the act. More plausibly, intent determines your blameworthiness.

                Consider, suppose someone was raised in a very different circumstances where everybody finds it acceptable to say the n-word. Suppose he were to enter our society where using the word is offensive. His lack of intent to offend and his ignorance of our norms does not make his use of the word morally right.

                Think about what we might say to him when he wonders why people tell him not to use the word.

                When he wonders whether he did something wrong, there seems to be something wrong with saying the following: “No you didn’t do or say anything wrong, but you shouldn’t use that n-word again.”

                If I am not doing anything wrong, why should I not do what I currently am doing?

                We can’t make sense of our demanding that such a person stop using the n-word without also presupposing that such use of the n-word is antecedently wrong.

                You may think that maybe it wasn’t wrong before but it would be wrong in the future after we have made the demand.

                But this gives us very awesome moral powers. We can somehow, just by our demand change what duties a person has. But this is odd. We don’t normally take ourselves to have the power to unilaterally change what duties or reasons someone else has. In fact, to have such a power just is to have authority over said person. We don’t normally take ourselves as having authority over others. At best the only thing which could have such authority is either God or the state and even then it is extremely doubtful if the latter really does. (And there is also a bit of mystery as to how the former is supposed to work)

                It is theoretically cleaner to suppose that even inadvertently causing offence is morally wrong, but someone who has already taken due care should not be blamed or castigated for it.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                Moral obligation is to society, being polite is to the individual.

                As a professional philosopher, This doesn’t cut ice. Moral obligations are sometimes owed to oneself and sometimes owed to other individuals. It is significantly more controversial whether we can have duties to society which are not themselves reducible to duties to particular individualsReport

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Murali
                Ignored
                says:

                We can have duties to ourselves that are expandable to society, but there are also duties to society that are not necessarily owed to the self (I can’t steal from myself; I can’t be rude to myself, as such).

                Unless you have a different working definition of moral obligation than I do (very possible that philosophy does).Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                You didn’t say owed to self, you said owed to individuals. I took that to mean that you thought moral duties were owed to society regarded as some amorphous collective distinct from the individuals who comprised it.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Murali
                Ignored
                says:

                My bad, getting terms confused.

                Let me reiterate my position:

                Morals are duties/rules we owe to others in order to avoid trespass or harm. Don’t assault/kill, don’t steal, don’t lie/commit fraud, don’t break vows/oaths, etc. It is an obligation, thus there is nothing expected in return.

                Manners are ‘social grease’, and are not a duty owed to others or the self. They exist to make interactions more agreeable and pleasant and to keep things running smoothly, and thus have a set of knock-off effects that are beneficial to all. A person who chooses not to exercise good manners but falls short of violating the agreed upon morals is not failing (necessarily) in the duties owed to others, but runs the risk of finding themselves limited in the scope of personal interactions (i.e. no one wants to deal with your rude self), ergo they begin to lose the knock-off effects. Since there is an unspoken quid pro quo, it’s not morality.

                Manners also can not be morality simply because manners are too fluid and subjective. And yes, I agree with your example above that once corrected, a person should adjust their manners; but a subsequent violation is not a breaking of morals. A person may find operating in society difficult until they have the manners down, but they won’t be tossed in jail or rode out of town on a rail for it.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                It’s more that I think it’s funny to inject “yes… this is a moral discussion… BUT IT IS YOU! WHO! IS! BEING! IMMORAL!” into a discussion where the morality of the discussion hasn’t yet been agreed upon in the first place.

                Why do you think I was talking about morality _at all_?

                In fact, what are you even talking about?

                My comment is literally entirely about word usage. It mere says ‘Guys is a term with a gendered connotation, and that’s a pretty easy fact to prove by removing anything that might override said connotation. Which is how you figure out word connotations to start with, you ask people to imagine what the word means _in a vacuum_!’

                This is not rocket science.

                You suggested this was being ‘condescending’ somehow. Because you seem to think it’s funny to wander around suggesting that a man disagreeing with a woman is being ‘condescending’, in literally any circumstances.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                Why do you think I was talking about morality _at all_?

                Because we’re discussing the moral importance of using the correct term “snickerdoodles” instead of “guys” when we address a group of people who might have people who don’t identify as male in it.

                Why do you think we are not talking about morality?

                You suggested this was being ‘condescending’ somehow. Because you seem to think it’s funny to wander around suggesting that a man disagreeing with a woman is being ‘condescending’, in literally any circumstances.

                I admit to finding it funny, yes. Also when I see it happen in the wild under uncontrolled circumstances. (I was tempted to use the word “mansplaining”. Knowing that you’re Enby, I’m pleased that I didn’t. I don’t want to have stepped on that particular mine.)Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Because we’re discussing the moral importance of using the correct term “snickerdoodles” instead of “guys” when we address a group of people who might have people who don’t identify as male in it.

                That’s not what we’re doing.

                We’re actually in a very dumb discussion about a personal request to a bunch of friends that proposed cutsie alternatives to ‘guys’, that was entirely misframed as some sort of serious proposal.

                And this treated here as a serious proposal not in any relevant way, but by someone making up a bunch of nonsense how guys ‘really is’ gender-neutral, and anyone suggesting people use anything else (again, to friends on Twitter) is Orwellian.

                Because defining languages is bad bad bad, and also it’s really important that everyone understands that ‘guys actually is gender-neutral and everyone must accept my definition of that’! And someone needs to tell her!

                Like, this entire thing is fail on top of fail. So the question when entering this discussion the question facing me was: What level of fail do I want to get into?

                I picked the level of ‘trying to redefine guys’, which is detachable from any moral position. How society thinks about the word ‘guys’ is objective…it might be vague, but it is not a philosophical question.

                I did this because the moral arguments are really stupid. From top to bottom. I mean, perhaps they are good arguments, but they are that _despite_ the article, not because it.

                Because, again, what has actually happened here is someone, quite correctly, pointing out to her friends that ‘guys’ is not an inclusive term, which it’s not, and she’s not a fan of being called that. And she jokingly suggesting a bunch of very silly terms instead, along with some reasonable ones. (I notice that no one seems to have noticed that ‘people’ was in that list, a term the article itself uses!)

                And now we’re here, in this dumbass twitter dogpile. Which is, surreally, being treated as some sort of actual philosophical question.

                Hey, remember back when we were talking about cancel culture, and large part of the problem was how things can get amplified out of their context, and the internet is not particularly good at figuring out appropriate responses? Huh.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                There’s a weird thing that happens where we respond to language from a descriptivist angle and pivot to a prescriptivist angle.

                And we pivot from one to the other.

                Which is, surreally, being treated as some sort of actual philosophical question.

                With enough force of will, maybe you can make it stop being one.

                Hey, remember back when we were talking about cancel culture, and large part of the problem was how things can get amplified out of their context, and the internet is not particularly good at figuring out appropriate responses? Huh.

                If all Cancel Culture did was result in dumb-assed philosophical arguments on message boards, I think that you’d find that there would be rather a lot more fans of Cancel Culture than there are right now.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                “Why do you think I was talking about morality _at all_?”

                Because if we aren’t talking about morality, then we’re talking about preferences, and if we’re talking about preferences then you just explained to a woman how her preferences were incorrect, and that makes you look like a total asshole.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                Please explain where, in the sentence ‘Of course, the circumstances in which one says “hey guys, let’s open our manuals to page 37” and “did you see a group of guys come through here” is entirely different but hey, let’s not let context get in the way of anything.’ you see a preference for anything at all.

                Is everyone here hallucinating the comment I responded to? My first comment was entirely about word connotations (And the incorrect information about that in the article), not what people ‘should’ be called, or how people feel about anything.

                Kristin posted a _criticism_ of what I said, one that actually limited itself to exactly that topic. Nothing about her preferences, nothing about morality. She had a criticism of my argument about word connotations.

                I responded to that.

                At that point in time, the entire discussion, literally everything I’d said, was a discussion of the claim in the article about the _connotations of a word_.

                Nothing at all about what people ‘should’ be called, or how they should feel about things, and in fact Kristin had not stated what her preferences were.

                In fact SHE STILL HASN’T. Kristin has not said one word if she’s okay with being referred to with ‘guys’.

                Everyone here is not only hallucinating an entirely different comment, you’re hallucinating her actual position on this!

                And then we got Jaybird and his nonsense jumping in.

                You know who here explained to a woman her preferences were incorrect? Or at least, that her stating those preferences out loud was bad?

                The person who said _this_: Whether she knows she is or not, Dr. Evans is engaging—out of purely good intentions, I have no doubt—in an Orwellian process of bringing about Newspeak.Report

              • Avatar JS in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                Why respond to you when they can pick an imaginary version that is using the viewpoint they want to refute?Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to JS
                Ignored
                says:

                Yeah.

                I was just going to just let the entire premise of this post. I really was just going to ignore the ‘Let’s attack a women for stating a preference about how she doesn’t like being referred to with a male grouping and how people should be more inclusive. Let’s pile on her!’ bullsh!t that happened here, the sort of inherent sexist of plenty of people here.

                I was just going walk right past that. Determined to _only_ talk about the factual inaccurate claims about the connotations of a word. That was all I was going to talk about. Deliberately.

                And then…this.Report

              • Bryan O'Nolan Bryan O'Nolan in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                DavidTC, If your first two sentences refer to my piece, then you have read it in wa y which–to my mind–is uncharitable. I several times agreed with or was otherwise supportive of Dr. Evans’s desire to use inclusive language when addressing groups, her word choice when doing so and her earnest good intentions. My disagreements with her are about her assertion about the connotation of the word “guys”–which I respectfully acknowledge you and I do not agree upon–and the condescending, forced and at time problematic it itself list of terms she shared.

                Should I have made it clear that the did not create the list herself? Yes. I won’t make that mistake in the future.

                I realize now that my piece touched a nerve. That is in no way a criticism but an acknowledgment. Causing offense was not my intent. If I caused any, you have my sincerest apologies.

                I think intent is important. For a great many people, use of the word “guys” is devoid of any gendered connotation. I understand that it does not for you.

                For a word to work it has to have shared meaning, and when it doesn’t, there is a process of discussion and understanding on what the parties agree the word means in their context.

                What I intended for this post was not an assault on sensibilities but a statement of intention, an argument defending a position, the position being that this particular word was not, by intention, gendered exclusion.

                Anyhow, I’ve meandered here. Be well.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Bryan O'Nolan
                Ignored
                says:

                DavidTC, If your first two sentences refer to my piece, then you have read it in wa y which–to my mind–is uncharitable.

                Reading this tweet as ‘condescending, forced and at time problematic ‘ is itself uncharitable.

                It’s a true statement (Or one she sees as a true statement) backed up with a list that is clearly intended to be humorous in several parts.

                You decided to build some entire mythology around it, or force it into some existing mythology.

                I several times agreed with or was otherwise supportive of Dr. Evans’s desire to use inclusive language when addressing groups, her word choice when doing so and her earnest good intentions.

                No you weren’t. Your conclusion:

                My disagreement there is on two points. First, the word guys is not gendered, as she purports. Secondly, even if it were gender exclusive, it should not be replaced by condescending neologisms. She can’t make me call a mixed gender group of people meow meows or lovelies. It’s not going to happen.

                Whether she knows she is or not, Dr. Evans is engaging—out of purely good intentions, I have no doubt—in an Orwellian process of bringing about Newspeak. Some of these efforts come from governments, but the standard bearers are thought vigilantes seeking to repress freedom of expression. I would be willing to wager that almost all them don’t see themselves this way—as I said above, I genuinely believe these are well-intentioned efforts to make the world a better place, from a certain point of view—but what it amounts to is modern puritanism; the only difference between the present expression and the 18th century sort is the shift in deity from an infallible God to an apotheosized notion of Progress.

                There is enough real evil in the world without inventing new monsters to slay. Going on a moral crusade about the word guys is not going to be important to China’s Uighur minority being tortured in re-education camps, Falun Gong members having their organs harvested or Ethiopian refugees fleeing violence.

                So first, you object to the connotation of ‘guys’, which I believe you are wrong about but that’s not actually important. (Although that was all I intended to talk about.) That’s fair enough, I don’t have any objection to someone saying that.

                You then also conclude that she is a ‘thought vigilante seeking to repress freedom of expression’, that she is ‘engaging in the Orwellian process of bringing about Newspeak’, although you say the effort is well-intentioned.(1) You specifically say this is two different things.

                What do you mean you’re ‘supportive’ of this? Are you generally supportive of Orwellian things? Supportive of things you think are ‘modern puritanism’?

                1) You then also complain about people talking about this on the internet instead of other things. Which, BTW, looks extremely silly, and raises the obvious question: Why didn’t _you_ write an article about Falun Gong members having their organs harvested, instead of a 1730 word article talking about a random 17 word tweet? (Which you decide to interpret as a ‘moral crusade’ instead of ‘a thing someone said on Twitter’.)Report

              • Bryan O'Nolan Bryan O'Nolan in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                The is a remarkable response to a reply in which I went to great lengths to be respectful of you, the difference in our opinions and whatever reason you have for holding those opinions.

                The responses I’ve gotten from you just seem to come from a place of anger, if not outright contempt.

                I apologize to you if I in anyway offended; it was not my intention. But I gather from the intensity of your response to me I have. I am sorry.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Bryan O'Nolan
                Ignored
                says:

                The responses I’ve gotten from you just seem to come from a place of anger, if not outright contempt.

                Yes, I do tend to get angry with people who say ‘This person should not be annoyed at how they are referred to or try to suggest a way for other people to refer to them instead of that way. Such a thing is Orwellian.’

                And…then sorta pretend they didn’t say that.Report

            • Avatar CJColucci in reply to DavidTC
              Ignored
              says:

              There are men in this world, and we have a few of them here, who will respond to criticism of the views of favored women by raising precisely the complaints of sexism, condescension, or mansplaining that — raised by an actual woman not within their circle — they would hoot at in derision.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to CJColucci
                Ignored
                says:

                I think what we’re hoping for is that the people who are, at least in their public presentation, both smart and progressively-minded would not spend so much time and effort repeatedly explaining to women how they are wrong and dumb.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                Look, if you want to argue we shouldn’t allow women to fully participate in this site, you need to make that argument explicitly.Report

  11. Avatar Kristin Devine
    Ignored
    says:

    Fun piece! Thanks for writing!Report

  12. Avatar InMD
    Ignored
    says:

    I’ve tried to resist commenting on this but whatever. I think that the real answer is that people who take offense at this sort of thing are implacable. If it wasn’t ‘guys’ it would be something else. There’s no point in trying with them nor is there any underlying rationale. The goalposts will always be moved. It is a decision to be offended over nothing.

    Also I tried the experiment Oscar suggested above with my wife. She said if I needed something to do I should stop looking at Facebook and move the laundry over.Report

  13. Avatar KenB
    Ignored
    says:

    Thanks for the post — I especially enjoyed reading about the history of this term. I admit I was initially skeptical, as most etymologies that have a colorful historical narrative end up being more creative than accurate, but I was happy to find that this one is genuine.

    One small point that may not have been mentioned already is that as interesting as etymologies may be, they don’t have any particular relevance to prescriptive debates about current usage — as speakers we encounter the words as they are, in our modern context. E.g. if I were to tell my pastor that I thought her sermon was “awful”, she would likely take it as an insult, despite the fact that five hundred years ago this word meant “full of awe”.Report

    • Bryan O'Nolan Bryan O'Nolan in reply to KenB
      Ignored
      says:

      Thank you, and I think you make a fair point about etymologies but I will add a (partial) counterpoint. I think it is important to understand–for those who care about such things–that connotation and denotation are not static, or even universal in the moment. See my reference to the n-word. If I got in a time machine and stepped out in the future to hear my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren using the word with impunity because it is socially acceptable and not considered offensive by anyone, even the original targets of the slur, I would be appalled (because I think of it as pure hate) but not surprised (because I recognize there is a process going on). Sometime etymology is context.

      You’re right to say that it is not the end all and be all, but I don’t think it is irrelevant to the discussion.Report

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