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Friday, December 16, 2011

Don’t Call Us Guys

Please call us gentlepeople. Or just say hello.

Here are the ground rules for my argument: according to Unabridged, which is based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary 2011, the word gentleperson is the singular pronoun referring to a form of address for a lady or gentleman. Gentlepeople is the plural pronoun that can be used when speaking to a group of people.

Either word will do nicely, thanks. Folks or a simple greeting will work, too. As a senior, I think I am not alone in my lack of appreciation for being greeted as guys. When I am in a shop or restaurant with one or two friends I would prefer that you call us folks or anything except the ubiquitous you guys. I understand that this is considered standard English usage in the twenty-first century, but it is not accurate. One key aspect of effective language is clarity. At best, calling us you guys is ambiguous, and as a devotee of language, I always prefer to avoid ambiguity if possible. The informality can be confusing--at worst rude.

Distinctions in both formal and informal language exist for a reason. Many of us still care deeply about the use of English and its pragmatics. We care about its variations, rich with nuances; we love that it is a living, breathing mode of expression.

Still, it boils down to the fact that we women are not guys when we’re out alone; nor are we guys when we’re out with our men. We are gentleladies or gentlepeople. Or hello works.

~Laraine Jablon

Laraine Jablon, BA, MA, is a writer specializing in social and health concerns of seniors. She resides in Nesconset, New York, and welcomes your thoughts. Lhjablon@gma