PLEASE Stop Calling My Daughter and I (Me*) Guys!

I think I might start a new American reality show. Maybe I call it “America’s Next Worst Habit”. Or how about, “So You Think You Have Good Manners?” But I’m not convinced anyone (present readers excluded, of course) would watch it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Traveling my favorite state refreshed me with its breathtaking beauty (Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and Monterey) and quaint oases (i.e. Balboa Island). And for the most part, we were greeted by helpful and friendly residents of gorgeous Orange County. But between eating out and easy access to cable TV (I admit to some HGTV indulgence) I could finance another vacation for every time someone addressed two or more people with, “You guys”.

I don’t always have a problem with this. When my husband and sons are with me and we’re driving through In-n-Out Burger the term does not make me cringe. And in a language and culture that has few words and less protocol to support the gender differences, I can intellectualize why the phrase has risen to prominence. But as lazy language and an unconscious message I can. not. stand. it.

It spilled over into one of my tea experiences last week. A server younger than the two women attending (myself included) called us and the two children attending (my daughter included) “You Guys” through the entire tea, as in “Would you guys like some more tea?” “Are you guys all finished?” “Can I get you guys anything else?”

When addressing my daughter and her cousin (ages 7 and 3) I wish she had said, “Would you GIRLS like some more tea?” And I’m wondering if my generation thinks the word “ladies” is akin to “ma’am” and only for women the generation beyond them? I don’t mind being called a lady. If you are serving women only, why not communicate respect and say, “Are you ladies finished?” And if you’re unsure, consider dropping the labels altogether. Say, “Can I get YOU anything else?” or “How did YOU like the chocolate cake?” You is perfectly acceptable use for addressing more than one person. Even a dear friend at a bridal shower of all women addressed them as “you guys” throughout the event. It’s our new bad habit and we no longer hear it. But it sounds as grating as inserting “like” into every other sentence used to be.

So now it’s your turn. Does it bother you? How do you like to be addressed? What do you like to be called? Do you find ‘girl’ derogatory and ‘lady’ old-fashioned? Are you a server? How do you address your customers? Do you think I’m being nit-picky?

Please leave a comment and tell us what you think.

* jk left a comment pointing out my gross grammar error in the title. Yes, I needed to use “me” as the direct object. Duh! In all fairness though, the post’s purpose was to discuss etiquette, not grammar, so I’m not convinced they can be directly compared.


  1. Lisa says:

    I know that I have fallen into this bad habit. I will try to be more aware and use more respectful terms. Thanks!

  2. Kim says:

    I believe the real failing is in the English language. Using ‘you’ to refer to a group is ambiguous and, unless it is accompanied by obvious stares at every person present, it can be easily misinterpretted. The south uses ‘you all, or y’all’ and everyone began to use ‘you guys’. It says something for how well integrated feminism is–I’ve never considered it gender-specific. ‘Course, I always have been ‘one of the guys’ working in mechanical engineering. I could easily write a rant complaining about men apologizing for their language because I was in the room.

  3. If I’m with a party of women and we’re called “guys,” it doesn’t bother me; it’s as neutral as a pair of jeans to me. I chalk it up to a lack of a good female version of the word “guy” that rolls off your tongue.

    I don’t want to be called a “girl.” “Lady” is fine, but a bit crisp and formal to me.

    It bothers me far more to be called a “gal.” My mind resists accepting it as a female version of “guy.” The very sound of it grates me.

  4. Madame Monet says:

    This is a very interesting post. I’m afraid I grew up with everyone of my own generation (in Denver in the 60′s) using “you guys.” I realized when I read your post that I still use it. In fact, I used it in a very important (although informal) business meeting just a couple of days ago, after the majority of the meeting broke up and there were just three of us left.

    I never considered “guys” as referring to men. I always understood it to refer to people.

    I do feel uncomfortable when people say ladies. I had a boy in my third-grade class from the South, and he always addressed me as “Yes, Ma’am.” I didn’t encourage it because where I was brought up, that denotes servility rather than politeness. This boy said where he was from (Tennessee) it is how his parents taught him to be polite.

    I don’t mind being addressed as Ladies and Gentlemen. But it was not until I read you post that I could put my finger on what bothers me about being addressed as a “lady.” It’s that it’s gotten to mean someone of your grandmother’s age. Now that I’m getting to that age, I don’t mind so much. But I see that in offices, women are usually referred to as “girls” (even if they are in their 50′s), when they are not being referred to as “guys.” I do think “ladies” has gotten to mean little old ladies in their 70′s, as an unconscious connotation.

    However, after your thoughtful post, I think I will reconsider what I am saying (and thinking), and perhaps make some changes.

    Best regards,
    Madame Monet
    Writing, Painting, Music, and Wine

  5. Francie says:

    “you guys” bothers me too…but ya’ll makes me happy ! I believe it might be a regional thing…being from the South “ma’am” and “sir” are respectful salutations as well as “ladies”. I don’t particularly like being called a “girl” because it seems disrespectful…gee whatever happened to respect? I certainly don’t mind being called a lady…even if sometimes (hanging my head in shame) I don’t live up to the title. I’m afraid good manners have been dumped curbside and left for the trash men to haul away.
    Thanks for letting me say that :)

  6. Tarie says:

    I think you have a good point. There are certainly situations where using “you guys” is not appropriate. For example, I would never use it while talking to a group of senior citizens and I would never use it while talking to clients (even if they were younger than me).

  7. prwells says:

    I agree with that, although I believe that the English language is causing people to use “you guys” more and more. I think people feel awkward calling a group “you” when you is more frequently used to address one person. So they insert “guys” to make it plural, it being the only word they can think of. Part of that is because of the fact that people have been saying “you guys” for a while.
    I think that if the English language used you as plural, as many other languages do, we wouldn’t have as much of a problem.

  8. millie says:

    Had never heard ‘you guys’ until I moved to TX 25 years ago. Still, to this day, find it absolutely the worst wording when addressing a group of any kind, whether it be all males, a mixed group, and even worse, all females.

    I ten to look around like they’re addressing someone ‘behind us’ (couldn’t possibly be my group of ladies), and then say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were addressing a group of men behind us”.

    I do, however, love the usage of “y’all” instead of ‘you people’.

  9. Alice says:

    My husband and I are shocked at the number of people who address us with “you guys” when we go out to eat. We do not return to those restaurants where the help has not been properly trained. It is totally inexcusable!

  10. Angela McRae says:

    Oh, let’s not call it being “nit-picky.” Let’s just say you are being “careful” and “meticulous” about our use of the language, and that is a good thing! I have to admit, though, I find it rather amusing to picture women at tea being addressed as “you guys.” Of course here in my region of the country, the word “y’all” can cover a multitude of grammatical sins!

  11. Juicy Jenn says:

    Ok, I may be the only one here who actually say…well, I don’t think its that big of a deal. I mean relatively speaking. Sure its slang and perhaps lazy in terminology but I think in the scheme of things…being referred to as “you guys” wouldn’t bother me. It doesn’t bother me. I think my child picking his nose or burping out in public…or say, using boy terms for going to use the bathroom, bothers me. After you’ve had your little boy or big one, make body function noises in public restaurants, I think you could call me “guy” and I would not notice much beyond the incredible fire bolt that lept from my eyeballs toward the son with apparently talking body parts. :)

  12. JNC says:

    I totally agree~~~to the point that when my daughter turned 16 and we went out with a group of females and were addressed as guys I said, “I don’t see any guys at this table.” There after the young man addressed us as ladies. :)
    To many women don’t want to be ‘female’ and I think that is where the problem lies. Do we even act feminine anymore? Personally I find it rude to be called guys. We are female after all and if more of us were proud of that fact, enjoyed being female and acted feminine maybe things would change.
    Totally not part of the feminist movement.
    Thanks for posting this article.

  13. alicia says:

    Good morning Ladies. ;) I have to say that the term “you guys” isn’t offensive to me as I do not consider it to be gender specific in it’s use. In a tea setting; however, I would not expect to hear it. The love of tea and the taking of it transcends gender and socio-economic boundaries; therefore, I must address the above post referring to servers as “the help” as being quite boorish. The appropriate use of verbiage falls to each of us. I would gently express my opinion to my server as they are probably not aware of their misnomer.
    Being from Texas, we use the term “y’all” in most settings and have raised our children to say their ma’am and sirs.

  14. jk says:

    I can’t believe y’all are fussing over the most accurate and acceptable use of the English language and the title of the original post contains a gross, but often committed error that was called out by nobody.

    I don’t know why everybody thinks that the use of the subjective pronoun “I” is always required when referring to multiple people. The correct title should be, “PLEASE Stop Calling My Daughter and Me Guys!” The sentence structure calls for the OBJECTIVE pronoun, which happens to be “me” and not “I”.

    Now, regarding your article I agree with what has already been mentioned. The Southern tradition of calling multiple subjects “y’all” is a pretty good alternative to the plural “you.”

  15. Madame Monet says:

    Thinking about someone’s comment above, if I were in a restaurant (especially a casual or family restaurant) I would be totally comfortable with someone addressing my table as, “What would you guys like?” I am actually a person who enjoys formality, and who thinks I have good manners.

    So, this leads me to think that this is a regional (and casual) way of addressing a group. I am originally from Denver (although I now live in Morocco), where I grew up hearing this everywhere, and still use it myself (although now I will think more carefully about it). The other person above mentioned that they heard it a lot in Texas. So, does this mean perhaps it is used widely in the West? What do other people think about this?

    Madame Monet
    Writing, Painting, Music, and Wine

  16. Beth says:

    Here in Boston I hear (and say) “you guys” a lot. We know you’re from out of town if you say “y’all!” I am not offended by “you guys” but I do try to say “ladies” when I am talking to all women. I have 3 sons, though, so I do fall back on “you guys” a lot.

  17. James says:

    Maybe it’s because I’m a guy and not uncommonly to some females a member of a gender that’s considered callous, but this is a genuine question:

    Why are people so offended by a certain word when it’s pretty obvious that the person is not using it with the intention to offend? Not everyone uses the same words the same way. Some here have made some good points that due to both age and location these words have different meanings.

    People are so sensitive to things these days that it almost seems that we need to re-write English just so we don’t offend. But then who would be the one to say what words everyone else should and shouldn’t use?

    Just a thought, but how about this: if someone says something that irritates or offends you, then calmly and politely ask them not to use that term.

    On the other hand, we could always save face and just address each other as we would the queen of England. ;)

    I realize that what I’ve said may have sounded flippant, however it was not intended to come accross that way. Sorry if what I said offended anyone. ;)

  18. Graymalkin says:

    Several years ago I was a contributing writer for a regional magazine. I was also the only male on the staff. I recall that the editor was so sensitive about using “gender specific” terms; thus, she preferred “first-year student” to “freshman,’ and so forth. I though it was typical PC silliness, but complied.
    Then one day she entered a room where only females sat and asked, “What are you guys doing for lunch?”
    I pointed out to Ms Politically Correct Non-gender specific how inappropriate it is to use the slang term for males – guys – when addressing women. For some reason (maybe because the concept was completely new to her), she just didn’t get it.
    I said, “Would you ever refer to a girl or woman, singularly, as a ‘guy’?” She blinked a few times, which I accepted as a ‘no.’ “Then why refer to girls or women, collectively, as ‘guys’?” She stammered a bit, and I felt I’d made my point as best as I could.
    Casual or not, I don’t like it. It’s about as ridiculous as someone addressing a mixed group – or worse, a group of males – as ‘gals’.
    Using ‘guys’ so commonly is bad enough, but when I see a young ‘wait staff person’ (waiter or waitress in more sensible, less overly sensitive times) address an elderly customers, whether a couple, two men or two women, as ‘guys,’ it bothers me. Show some bloody respect, for crying out loud!
    I have on occasion peaceably protested by using the singular. Someone asks where the manager is. I point to a young woman and reply, “That guy over there.” A woman does me a favor. “Thanks,” I say “You’re a nice guy!” They may not be insulted by the plural form, but they’re not too crazy about being addressed in the singular form!
    I wish at least people in the service industry would use “you folks” instead of “you guys”. It just shows more class.
    Of course, being Southern, I address any group, two to two thousand, as “y’all.” That simplifies things considerably, and always gets a smile from Yankee ladies.
    I reckon they thing it’s quaint.
    At least it shows better sense that folks who address everyone as “you guys”!

  19. Lea says:

    I grew up in the South, and now I live on the East Coast. I see a dividing line between North and South. You Guys is very Northern and it seems to start in Maryland and travel up the coast. Ya’ll is Southern, and is a way of saying I am from the South and proud of it. If I were in a formal setting I would say “you all”.

  20. Wendy :) says:

    Ladies, ladies, ladies! I’m reading comments and am astounded by the level of digression from the actual subject. I do not believe we are talking about offensive or not and who cares about gender-schmender. We are talking about self respect, decent behavior and good manners pure and simple.

    Addressing ladies as ‘Ladies’ is respectful, traditional and timeless, always correct, honest, true, international and honoring.

    Look at it this way. Acting and speaking like a lady will more often than not get you treated like a lady. Think hard and search deep because it’s not about power or demanding respect from the world but for yourself as a woman. I love being a woman! Why do we let the worlds current views dictate when good manners expires?

    I’m a lady and I wanted to be treated and spoken to as one. (Smile)

  21. eloise says:

    “you guys” certainly beats “youse guys” which is heard in some parts of the country. The terms “girls” or “women” have significance considering the diversity of our country. Calling an unmarried female a “woman” in some cultures implies that she has been intimate with someone. It’s an insult. The safest and politest choice is to use the plural “you” — unless there are important titles to be considered. “May I get you anything else?” is far politer than “May I get you guys, or youse guys, or y’all, or all y’all anything else?” But, having said this, any attempt to treat others respectfully, even when regional or informal terms are used, should be met with politeness and gratitude.

  22. NwWoman says:

    I agree with Wendy. The topic truly is one of good manners.

    But in today’s world, unfortunately, I see an uncomfortably significant number of Americans who find manners, morality and virtue to be old-fashioned. Blushing, if you have noticed, seems to be disappearing as part of our evolution. I am sad that a lack of manners, feel-good/do it behavior are the characteristics of progress.

  23. Sherri says:

    Ladies, I agree that manners are very important. It seems to me that it is just as important to speak correctly as it is to be kind and considerate of others. We should never be snobbish or rude to others if they call us guys or gals. There are many more important things in life to be concerned with. Are our lives really that shallow?

  24. Alyssa says:

    I am 18 years old, and during the summer, I work at the Santa Fe Opera as an usher. When addressing patrons, I ALWAYS use terms and phrases like “next to that gentleman in the red…”, “would you ladies like…”, “if you folks wouldn’t mind…”. Apart from basic civility, we never know when we’re talking to the next multi-millionaire donor, so we NEVER use terms like “y’all”, “you guys”, etc. that could give a bad impression. Yet somehow, once the summer is over, all of this polite language escapes me, and I never think twice about being called “you guys” when in a female group. Perhaps most college students of this day don’t blink at it, but even though I’ve had training in formal language, I just don’t expect it to be used outside formal situations.

  25. Nee_Ni says:

    My daughter had a 7th Birthday Tea Party with her cousins and friend ages 7 to 17. We talked to them about etiquette and talking when passing tea. We didn’t have a problem with them saying you guys but ain’t was said alot. The younger ones were correcting the older ones. They all had a blast and said they would like to come to another tea.

  26. Janet says:

    I found this post while searching for last- minute tips for my annual Valentine’s Day Tea Party. The comment that bothers me more than all of the others combined is “young lady” directed at adult women, sometimes obviously elderly women. What is that? The only time that I don’t find it offensive if it is spoken by a gentleman who is much older than I am.

    I have heard this comment from young men in their twenties, generally in a setting such as a restaurant or theatre directed at women my age (late 40′s) or my mother’s age.

    I really think that I am going to start my own, unofficial poll to find out what it’s about. As a side note, one time when I accompanied my 85 year old father to a doctor’s appointment, the physician addressed him as “young man”. I found this demeaning and I told him that he could address my father by his name or by “sir”.

    Generally I do try to avoid taking offense where none is intended, but there are limits!

  27. Pam Ridlehuber says:

    I believe being called a “guy” is rude as well as lazy. I do not like being lumped into one category of humanity. I do not think it is appropriate to call women guys, even if there are guys in the group…I have repeatedly asked people NOT to call me a guy, and the excuses range from “it’s from Indiana to the “east” to California to Iowa…” It grates on me terribly and I have begun to just respond with “Excuse me??” or “What did you say?” until the person speaking to me quits calling me a guy. I have also specifically asked people not to call me that, and that usually angers them!! I have a theory that the term “guy” originated with the homosexual movement which seems to view all persons as just “gay”…one sex, one word = guys!

  28. Gwendolyn F. Washington says:

    I do not feel it is good to call women or those of the feminine gender guys it is tacky and ill mannered. I am a sever and I address my guest… would anyone care for…? Please bring the televison show ETIQUETTE because it is LOST!

Speak Your Mind


3 + nine =