Is ‘guys’ an offensive form of address?

I live in Seattle, and the reputation that we are cooler, more casual, and less ‘obnoxious’ (unless we are talking football) than other areas of the country is sometimes well deserved.  However, as this little blurb that appeared today in the Seattle Times, the polar opposite is also true.

In the Rant and Rave column, this gentleman well, rants, over the behavior of his server in (apparently) more than one unnamed restaurant:

“To the wait staff in supposedly sophisticated restaurants who habitually address my wife and I as “guys” as we sit down to dine. I assume they’re not blind and this insulting address is part of Seattle’s legendary and puerile informality. How gauche! Next time this happens we’ll call out the fool and leave.”

First off, I want to thank this gentleman for today’s self improvement; I had to look up the word ‘puerile‘ to determine that this person considers informality ‘childish, silly and trivial.”  How Downton Abbey of him! But to the point, is using the word ‘guys’ really insulting?

Officially no.  According to Merriam-Webster, the word ‘guy’ used as described above is perfectly correct.  The actual definition: “used in plural to refer to the members of a group regardless of sex” fits this scenario. That being said, as a server, I have to admit I would probably not use the word, unless I was addressing a particular demographic, say 20-something males at a sports bar, casual dinner, or otherwise obviously just having a good time.  If it was the same 20-something men at a business or formal function, I would say gentlemen, and if it was a mixed group…this is where the northern climes of the United States have a distinct disadvantage compared to our southern cousins, as in: What is the northern equivalent of y’all? Or folks?  To say either of these words north of the Mason-Dixon line is to invite a query about your ancestry, and if you don’t have answer that includes southern heritage, some odd looks.

For the particular situation above, that so incensed this “ranter”, I would probably just use the collective you, as in, “What brings you in tonight?”  Said to the table, with eye contact to both individuals, shouldn’t cause any outrage.

All that being said, is “guys” really insulting?  Emphatically no.  It may be a bit lazy, socially speaking, and there may be situations where an alternative is definitively the better way to go, but guys (see what I did there), in today’s social and etiquette environment, guys is a more than acceptable stand-in for addressing a mixed group.

What are your thoughts on this?  Please start a conversation in the comments!



Are Kindness and Manners the Same Thing?

I would say yes, and no. And this is going to get a bit spiritual today, but bear with me.

Liberty Mutual (no, I am not a customer) has illustrated this concept in their “give a little” commercial, the long form of which can be seen here.

Kindness can go above and beyond everyday manners, but manners, such as holding a door for someone behind you, can become an act of kindness. When you perform an act of kindness, it changes you on the inside. That warm feeling is how we, as humans, ought to feel all the time.  Sane, calm, peaceful, caring.  Not angry, critical, on edge. This feeling can bloom over perfect strangers and closest friends.  And its okay if its not reciprocated today.  Or even tomorrow. You are putting your karmic deeds out ‘there’ and you will reap the benefits.  With a happier heart, with less judgement, less anger.  And younger looking skin.  (Okay, I might have been joking about that last bit.)

This year, one of my resolutions is to pass on acts of kindness.  That doesn’t mean that someone has to be kind (or mannerly) to me first in order for me to, in turn, pass it on.  I can start the domino affect.  I want to keep in mind that an act of kindness is not just a “do it once and be done” resolution, but an everyday event.  The best thing about this, it takes the conscious decision to do it, and little else.  An act of kindness can be holding a door for the person behind you, providing a kind word or compliment to someone, smiling at a stranger, a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for service, letting a driver in front of you in traffic.  No cost, no time commitment, no effort, except for the decision to do it.

Imagine how our world be if kindness became a habit.  If we “loved our neighbors as ourselves.” What change could be brought about in your neighborhood, your community?  And how might that grow? Kindness will almost never make the nightly news.  But that’s okay, because it can flourish right before your eyes.