the assumption of responsibility for the welfare of the world
‘You guys’ is an auxiliary second-person plural pronoun in certain English dialects, particularly of North America. In these dialects, the formal second-person plural pronoun remains ‘you’, so that singular and plural are generally not distinguishable; ‘you guys’ is the only distinct second-person plural in use, and thus is obligatory where clarity is required or desired. The usage is generally reserved for speech and informal situations; in informal discourse, it can be used commonly, or even routinely, by many speakers. These same dialects will frequently use simply ‘guys’ as an informal form of collective address.
The term derives from ‘guy’ as an informal word for “person”. Ultimately it traces back to a single person, Guy Fawkes (1570-1606), an English revolutionary who attempted to decapitate the British government in 1605 by detonating a large store of gunpowder under the parliament building. Fawkes became the object of a sort of celebratory contempt, burned in effigy every year on the anniversary of the plot. Effigies of Fawkes were also made to be carried door-to-door. These various effigies were all called “guys”; the term was eventually extended to persons generally taken to resemble these effigies (in dress), before coming to mean persons in general.
The frequent contemporary use of ‘guy’ as a gendered term (for example, “guys and girls”) has led to claims that ‘you guys’ is sexist or exclusionary. Current usage shows that it is typically not gendered, though: it is applied consistently by female speakers of the relevant dialects to groups consisting entirely of females. Past usage is less important, but the word ‘guy’ seems to have been gendered in the early stages only because Fawkes himself was male, and in the middle stages primarily because society confined females to limited roles, so that discussing persons and male persons were considered the same thing.
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