01/25/13 22:00:31

You Guys

The English expression “You Guys” is used to refer to both women and men in colloquial language as a direct form of address. As a foreigner, this doesn’t sound right to me. It, for some odd reason, excludes women. Of course there are a couple of issues there, but I’ll get to that shortly. First let me explain my problems with “You Guys”.

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren

A widely accepted form of a formal salutation in letters is “To whom it may concern”. In our language this sounds like “whoever cares”. Translated directly, it doesn’t sound very formal. In German we use “Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren” in letters to a group of people, or in letters where we don’t know exactly who is going to read it. It translates to “Dear sir or madam”.

German jumps through long and complicated hoops just to get things right. Maybe that’s the reason we have so many long and complicated nouns. As salutation “you guys” may be the most commonly used expression, but when I actually need or want to say it, it just doesn’t sound right. Like if something was missing. Which is a problem. As an aspiring foreigner there’s only one thing that I can do to keep learning the language. I have to listen and learn how natives are using their language.

Screencasts are very direct. As the recording person, I sit in the same position as the person watching the screencast. That’s why screencasts should be using colloquial language. Not just to keep things simple and appeal to a broader audience, but also to keep a more direct connection to ones audience.

This makes things complicated. Forming sentences is not as easy, because I always have to fight what I learned in order to circumvent “you guys”. I once wrote an email to Grammar Girl Mignon Fogerty for an entirely unrelated question. I was asking how to pronounce “either”. Some English people say “eether”, whereas others say “aither”. She wrote the majority says “aither”, but recommended, as a foreigner, that I shouldn’t just stick to whatever is more widely accepted, but also what sounds more logical to me.

It was where I realized that I’m a free(er) person in the English language. I’m always going to be an outsider. I’ll never speak the language as well as a native. Therefore I can, in some places, make up my own rules. I stuck with “eether” and I decided “you guys” is an expression I’m not going to use.

Maybe you want to re-decide you own usage and some of you guys and girls, men, women, pets, bugs, penguins1, chimpanzees, and dolphins are going to make this world a better place.

  1. Penguins are cool.