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No Longer Saying “Guys” In Social Communication

Opinion 8 Comments on No Longer Saying “Guys” In Social Communication 909

One of my favorite words used to be “retarded”.  It just summed up a whole paragraph of feelings in a single word. As someone who grew up predominantly in the 80’s this was a word that was simply part of our lexicon.  I was as likely to say it about myself as I was anyone else. It was one of the words that you don’t even think about when you’re using it. That is until you start a YouTube channel and start being bashed as an insensitive asshat.

To be honest I was sad to have to stop using that word.  I genuinely did not attach any hate or misgivings when uttering it.  The word was simply a way to express my frustration in a way everyone from my generation accepted without a second thought. But the millennials are ever so much more politically correct than I am, and being that they are a major portion of my viewer base I decided it was time to retire the word.  If people complain about “hateful” words, and it really doesn’t harm me to stop using them, it’s a simple kindness to give in. (And frankly once I swapped the old word with “14 year old” I think we can all agree it’s a much better insult.  14 years olds annoy everyone, including other 14 year olds, and we all grow out of it. White, black, boy, girl everyone agrees 14 year olds are annoying…)

I have been thinking about this a lot in regards to my followers and the issue of women involvement in the tech scene.  One of the issues that is talked about a good deal now is all of the “small” insults that pile up until women feel that they shouldn’t even try to be involved in this field.  I have no interest in rolling over and playing nice with everyone I meet, on the other hand as said before if there are very small efforts that can be made to make the situation better it seems like common sense to implement them.

One of the issues I see is that so many of the words we use in the tech field are masculine.  For myself whenever I am talking about a group of people I default to words such as “guys” because the reality is that the field is predominantly made up of men.  Although this seems innocuous the ramification is that whenever I speak about tech it reinforces the idea it’s a man’s game, and women are not even invited.

“Let’s get all the guys together to discuss the infrastructure project” by definition excludes women from participation.  This may not be what the speaker intends, but by saying “guys” instead of a gender neutral word it in fact means “men”.

Going forward I am making a conscious effort to start using gender neutral terms whenever possible.  You will start to see “folks” used much more in all of my communication.  This is a simple change that can help have an impact even if no one notices it’s happening.

For those out there that will scream about political correctness run amok I will make the simple observation that females make up 51% of the population.  Leaving ethics, morals, and political correctness out of the conversation it is simply pragmatic to be more inclusive.  By being a bit more sensitive to women we can increase our consumer base, our employee base, and our base of leadership in this field.  Thinking about how to correct small slights seems to me to be the smartest thing to do.


Eli Etherton

I am Eli "the Computer Guy" and have been in the tech industry for approx. 20 years doing all kinds of odd projects. I started as an electronics tech in the US Army, worked in corporate IT during the IT Boom, was an individual consultant and grew my tech shop to have numerous full time employees and supported small business clients with computer repair/ server maintenance/ web development/ surveillance systems/ telephone systems until the great recession. After that I started creating video training on all the topics I know and now have a YouTube Channel with over 500K subscribers. I am the founder of and my plan is to create a tech "news" site that I would actually find useful if I was still in the server room.

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  1. Brendan June 24, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Tell me you are joking – please!

    • Eli the Computer Guy June 24, 2015 at 4:50 pm

      Nope… I’m very serious…

      There’s some very curious concepts around how language literally shapes how we think.

      • fryedman June 24, 2015 at 10:33 pm

        I personally never understood with the big deal of using a single pronoun when talking about a single potential person from an unknown population. I am mainly referring to sticking to the general terms he or she when in writing. Such as “he used to much water,” what difference does it make if it is a he or she? And using he/she just sounds stupid, “he and or or she use to much water.”
        However, I have noticed that this problem mainly only exists in school where there is no better solution; but I have noticed as I have grown into the professional environment there are usually more appropriate pronouns, such as the user, just usually makes it sound more professional.

  2. Jeremy Davis June 24, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    Nice one! Firstly your mention of ‘retarded’ made me laugh. Having also grown up in the 80s I can totally relate to that! I too stopped using it quite a while ago but I do really like the idea of using ’14 yo’ as a drop in replacement! 🙂

    I have historically used “guys” as a gender neutral term to describe a collection of people; generally ones that I like… Unlike ‘retarded’ though, for many years I have stuck to my guns and argued that that is the context that I use it so that is the context that it should be taken in.

    However reading this article makes me stop and think. I already realise that when communicating with a wider audience it is not realistic to expect others to take the words we use in the context that we use them. They will be taken in the context that they are taken in.

    I knew all that already, but your post really hits home to make me take it a step further and consciously make the (very small) effort to not marginalise anybody!

    So thanks! 🙂

  3. Justin June 24, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    But isn’t using “14 yo” being ageist? ;p

  4. Dani June 25, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    As a female I’m never offended by the term guys, but certainly do appreciate the effort for more inclusive and gender neutral language. I’m the only female in our little 10 person company, and it still irks me when someone will say “what shall we have for lunch today fellas”. They are including me when asking the question, just not really thinking about the terminology.

  5. CE June 29, 2015 at 11:17 am

    In Texas we have this problem solved….we just say y’all, all y’all etc……

  6. Chauvinist July 3, 2015 at 11:25 am

    I live in Africa and I can tell you that women and this whole gender equality talk can get really annoying. Now I don’t care what arguments you you PC police may have. I just don’t buy into the idea of going out of my way to be inclusive anymore. In my country women get NGO moneys to fund their start-ups and nothing comes out. Real coders don’t get such opportunities.

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