Would you guys like to start with a beverage?” queried our server in the upscale restaurant where a friend and I were ordering dinner.
When did “you guys” replace the plural “you” in our culture?
It must be an age thing, but I dislike the expression and can’t get used to it, even though I hear it all the time, uttered by people of every age, economic status and educational background.
Indeed, TV’s Madame Secretary actor Téa Leoni, portraying the U. S. Secretary of State, often refers to foreign power brokers as “you guys.”
Oh, well. Whatever. Now there’s a word (that became a sentence) that also unsettles me.
And another: “Product.” My hair stylist always asks, “Do you need ‘product’ (hair spray, mousse or pomade) today?” at the end of our session. Not a product, as seems correct, just “product.”
Is it just me? Are there others out there who find our overly slangy language annoying?
Some of it pertains only to the much younger generation. “Hi,” among high schoolers is “Hey.” “Of course” comes out as “totally.”
I’m told that most of these expressions can be traced back to the Valley Girl vernacular from that popular 1980s film, along with “like,” as in, “Justin Bieber is, like, cool, and, like, like, gorgeous.”
Now, I admit I do like — in the old-fashioned sense — a couple of contemporary phrases. One, which means “to show keen interest” or “to assert oneself,” is “lean in.”
That has merit for its brevity.
The other is “work it.”
I strongly believe if you have a skill of any kind that could enrich your life, you should “work it.” Make the most of it. Parlay a talent for sketching, for example, into a job with a small newsletter: Work it. Move it forward. Don’t let it lie fallow.
A moving target
Another aspect of today’s language that recently came to my attention is the changing meanings of certain words.
To a woman of my age, a “wedgie” is a woman’s shoe with a wedge-shaped heel. To teenage boys of today, it means something dramatically different — or maybe as they would say — radically different, which involves underwear and inflicting pain!
Of course, today’s casual-speak (hey, did I just invent a word that adds to it?), is here to stay, and I’ll have to get used to it.
But adjusting to any kind of change is difficult, to which I defer to the sage advice of Nebraska community activist and historian, Bertha Calloway: We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails.
And also to the 1960s philosopher and spiritual teacher, Alan Watts: The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it and join the dance.
OK, here goes: “Well, alright you guys. If you don’t want to play bridge after the pickleball game, that’s fine. Whatever. We could stay here at the YMCA and check out all the product for sale at the front counter. That would be awesome!”
Carol Hall lives in Woodbury. She’s a longtime freelance writer, a University of Minnesota graduate and a former Northwest Airlines stewardess. Send comments and questions to [email protected].