I really do not like what has become the “collective pronoun” of choice – particularly for people age 30 and under. That pronoun is “guys.” Being, originally anyway, a southern gal, I wonder what has happened to the good old “Y’all?” I guess I have officially achieved citizenship in the (somewhat) venerable kingdom of Old Fogey Land. Now that my 60th birthday is upon me this year, I find myself creeping toward grumpy-hood.
Why must the servers at restaurants always ask my husband and me, “What would you guys like this evening?” I am generally polite enough not to tell them what I’d like, but I still bristle when I hear that. When I was growing up “guys wuz guys,” and “gals wuz gals,” and never, short of the bedroom , the twain shall meet. (I wasn’t really all that conservative, but hopefully you know what I mean.) Of course I also have a problem with the word “gals,” (which I find rather pejorative, and possibly demeaning or infantalizing to grown women), but be that as it may, I wonder what the response would be if a server asked at a table, where there were seated both men and women, “What would you gals like this evening?” Can you imagine? Wish someone would do that. Or perhaps my husband could answer a “you guys” question with, “Us (sic) gals would like a salad with ranch dressing on the side.”
I know most of you are thinking, “Come on, Paula, lighten up! It’s just an expression!” But I contend there are other pronouns that would be far more appropriate, less gender-specific, and thereby more appealing and acceptable to me. (And, really, isn’t that the most important thing? BTW, pay no attention to my poem about “pride.”) Here is a list of possible substitutes for “guys.” I leave it to you, my Gentle Readers, to choose the better, or to perhaps suggest some substitutes yourself!
“What may I get for each (or all) of you this evening?”
“What would you folks like this evening?” (Particularly appropriate at diners and truck stops.)
“May I suggest an appetizer for y’all to start?” (Totally reasonable question south of the Mason-Dixon line.)
Look at each customer individually, starting with the (eldest or farthest from server) woman present, “What may I get for you this evening Ma’am (or Miss)?” Then, “What may I get for you this evening, Sir (or ‘young man’)?” (Generally appropriate when the server is more than 50 years younger than the customer, which is more and more often the case.)
Dear me, I know it’s a lost cause. I know this because I have fallen prey to the same habit. So without further ado, I bid you guys, you folks, y’all, you Ma’am, you Sir, you all a great Sunday afternoon and wish each of “you (insert pronoun of your choice here) my Gentle Readers, enough. . .