Sunday, 26 May 2013

On guys, blokes, chaps, dudes, and geezers

Every now and then, I hear someone on talk-back radio (or read a comment in a "letters to the editor" page) complaining about the use of the word "guy".

Some complain about the word "guy" because of its popularity in youth culture.

Others complain because they see "guy" as an American word and would rather promote the use of the "more Australian" term "bloke".  (They ignore the fact that "bloke" was originally a British term, rather than an Australian one.)

And, really, both "guy" and "bloke" are international words.

As British a source as Gilbert and Sullivan (in "The Mikado") told of "a lady from the provinces who dresses like a guy".

Similarly, as American a source as Cab Calloway (in his song "Minnie the Moocher") described Minnie's boyfriend as "a bloke named Smokey".

The problem, really, is that we need a casual term for an adult, male human.   And "guy" often works pretty well ... often better than the alternatives.

There are problems with the formal term for an adult, male human:  man.  The problem is that many cultural ultra-conservatives want to hijack man to speak, not only of an individual adult, male human, but also as a collective term for all people.  So, if I use the word man, people may be confused if I'm using the word the way normal people use it, or in the way cultural ultra-conservatives use it.

As a result, we need other - colloquial - words for an adult, male human.  And so many of these colloquial words only describe some men, but not others.

A bloke, for example, is normally a working-class man, or a man from a working-class background ... or at least one with working-class pretensions.  A bloke is usually a heavy drinker ... a problem gambler ... sports-mad ... smokes like a 1970s cab-driver ... good at D.I.Y. ... swears like a cop ... farts like a Labrador.

A chap is the opposite of a bloke.  If one man describes another man as a chap, they're both upper-class twits.

Normally a younger man, a dude is overly fashion conscious ... obsessively grooming conscious.  A dude frequently fancies himself as God's gift to women.  A dude frequently fancies himself ... full stop.

A geezer is a bloke who has passed his "use-by date"A geezer is an older bloke who is very opinionated ... frequently bigoted ... ethically "flexible" ... not averse to operating on the wrong side of the law ... occasionally hygenically-challenged.

And what do you call a man who doesn't qualify as a bloke, a chap, a dude, or a geezer?

Why he's just a regular guy, that's what.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Constructive comments, from a diversity of viewpoints, are always welcome. I reserve the right to choose which comments will be printed. I'm happy to post opinions differing from mine. Courtesy, an ecumenical attitude, and a willingness to give your name always help. A sense of humour is a definite "plus", as well.