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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Monday, November 9, 2009

What a guy!

Despite being very common, the word “guy” has been at our disposal to mean “person” for only the past 150 years. The original “guy” was Guy Fawkes, who attempted to blow up the British Houses of Parliament on November 5th, 1605 as an act of protest against mistreatment of Catholics. Since then, bizarrely clad effigies, or “guys” have been burnt on this anniversary, called “Bonfire Night”, in Great Britain (and also in Newfoundland). Odd-looking men started to be called “guys” in the early 1800s, and then gradually, in North America at least, the term was applied to people in general.


  1. Yes. Quite indiscriminately. I often hear groups of girls and boys addressed as "You guys" by teachers, camp counselors and swim instructors etc.

    1. "you guys" is one of the ways we remedy our lack of a plural second person pronoun in English. Much like "youse" and "y'all".


About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.