Sometimes it’s the little things in life that drive you completely bats. We went out to dinner last night and the waitress, young enough to be my grandchild if I had one, said, “Hi, how are you guys tonight? Would you guys like a drink?“ followed on her next visit by “You guys know what you want to order?”
And that was when I smiled nicely (although my husband says that is my shark smile) and asked her not to call me a guy. She looked blank. I pointed out that you didn’t need the word guys in any of those sentences. The simple word YOU would work. She struggled with the concept of you as a plural pronoun, even though she admitted she had taken Spanish, where it clearly exists as a plural pronoun.
“Oh,” she said, “I just don’t know what to say to people after all this feminism stuff.”
It is a tribute to my self control that I didn’t point out that the struggles of feminism made it possible for her to choose to do whatever she wanted.
When I mentioned it to my husband again this morning, he professed that he didn’t understand why it bothered me. I asked how he would feel if every server addressed us as ‘you ladies.’ He admitted that wouldn’t be acceptable. A small victory. At least he may be getting it.
Another verbal atrocity is AT, randomly stuck on the end of sentences. Where were you at? Seriously? Why is AT there? Where were you – period. Yes, yes, I know language evolves, but it is supposed to be better, not sloppier. We are not supposed to be adjusting the language to the lowest common denominator. Are we?
It’s not that I don’t like new words. I do. In my lifetime, we added humongous, a catchy combination of huge and tremendous. It grew out of college campuses in the Sixties. I hear that word and think of that time and all the other words that didn’t get accepted into the mainstream, like cool and groovy. They just sound dated now, as the upside-down meaning of bad will no doubt sound 10 years from now.
Google as a verb is so economical and instantly understandable I think it will stick around. Even for people who use another search engine, like Bing, google is still the term for the act of searching the internet. Other brand names, like Kleenex for tissue and Jell-O for gelatin, are used the same way, universally understood even when the actual product is another brand.
You guys is the New York version of you all. To be totally accurate, it probably ought to be youse guys but I swear, if a server comes to my table and calls me that, I will spontaneously combust.