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    (The following comments were moved to here from The discussion is essentially obsolete since the post was edited to remove mention of "guys".)

    "self-conscious guys" -> "self-conscious men and women". Also note the assumption that the OP is male. – Greg Martin 20 hours ago

    @GregMartin (a) I use "guys" as a unisex idiom (b) it is not hard to find out who the OP is – Yemon Choi 19 hours ago

    Your intention might be for "guys" to be a unisex idiom, but that doesn't make it one. – Greg Martin 10 hours ago

    Maybe I better should not as a non-native but...I changed "guys" to "folks" as I think it should be (more) gender neutral but otherwise rather similar. In any case, it seems to translate to the "gens" which might have been what Joël would have written in French. – quid 6 hours ago

    @GregMartin Fair point. – Yemon Choi 4 hours ago

    @GregMartin - I suppose this is getting more and more off-topic, but it is a fact about modern American English usage that the word "guys" can be used in a gender-neutral way. See, e.g., – alex 2 hours ago

    @alex maybe so, but while the text under your link says: 'But it doesn't go into the fact that in modern American English, "guys" in the plural can be directed at a mixed-sex or even an all-female group.' please note it says "directed at," not say "refer to." Indeed, it later says explicitly: ' "Guys" works as a vocative to an all-girl group: "Let's go, guys!" But it doesn't work as a noun referring to them: "The guys are coming over". (Perhaps some people use "guys" this way for women, but I don't think I've heard it.)' And the latter is the usage present. – quid 58 mins ago

    Another fact: We control what language we use. Another fact: Language affects culture, and not always for the better. Using male nouns/pronouns to represent all genders has a long history, of course, but it reinforces our stereotypes that maleness is the "default" human status and femaleness is some sort of add-on. In particular, this reinforces the stereotype that math is a man-thing. And that stereotype is extremely harmful. That is why I choose not to hide behind the "fact" you mention. – Greg Martin 57 mins ago

    The same point is made on the SE site for English Language & Usage: "Is 'guy' gender-neutral" – quid 55 mins ago

    Although I have no wish to drag things on further (Greg is welcome to email me if he feels this would be profitable, salutory, etc) I suggest that since the text has been corrected, the whole discussion starting with Greg's first comment be moved to chat, so as to avoid someone coming along in a few weeks' time and restarting arguments devoid of initial context. – Yemon Choi 23 mins ago

    • CommentAuthorJoel
    • CommentTimeNov 8th 2015
    In he English I learnt at school back in France, "guys" was masculine, and it certainly do sound masculine for a french ear because it sounds a little like "Gars". When I came to New York, I saw and heard "guys" used all the time as gender-neutral. I have since read a text by linguist explaining than in modern american English the second person singular and pluriel were clearly distinct (as clearly distinct as in French, say): you for the singular and you guys / you folks for the second person pluriel, with a clear geographic distribution of the two idioms. Where I have lived (New York, Boston, New Haven), I have only heard "you guys", and it seems to me that everyone here use "guys" as gender-neutral. That being said, I am okay with the change if that clarifies things. But for the record, I want to state I strongly disagree with the vision of language of we should use it expressed by Greg Martin in his message one hour ago.
    Just writing to say thanks to Todd for moving the discussion here, and to Joel for his comments. Personally speaking, Joel, I always assumed that you intended to use a gender-neutral phrase, for otherwise you would have written "men" instead. Hence my initial comment.
    • CommentAuthoralex
    • CommentTimeNov 8th 2015 edited
    GregMartin -- if you want to style your language in an effort to change culture and dispel stereotypes, good for you, and I wish you the best of luck. But, IMHO, it is somewhat objectionable for you to post comments on a math site, criticizing others for standard language usage which reveals they are not fully onboard with your agenda.

    To rephrase: when you talk about language reinforcing harmful stereotypes and all that, you are bringing a political discussion into a place where it does not belong (i.e., a math site).

    quid -- I cited that link to make only one point, that "guys" *can* be used in a gender neutral way. I won't try to engage you on the details of what you write, vocatives vs nouns and all that, and will only say that I've heard many examples of the same usage as in Joel's post in the northeastern United States intended in a gender-neutral way.

    For what it's worth, I've heard "guys" or "guy" also used as a neuter noun (e.g. referring to a mathematical term as "this little guy"). Also for what it's worth, here's a Language Log discussion (but mostly in the comments, and I think mostly about the vocative form): Coming as I do from the American South, I do feel a wistful appreciation for the neatness of the construction "y'all" as a catch-all vocative. :-)

    quid's note of usage seems nuanced, and I seemed to agree with it at first, but now I'm not so sure (i.e., I'm truly conflicted). If I say "man, those guys in Congress are really screwing things up", both the 'man' and the 'guys' wouldn't logically entail all-male to me, and rather refer to the collective, and yet I feel unable to refute the idea that there may be some subtle reinforcement at work. So getting back to the MO post, the safest option would be to do what was done -- reword the post -- and move on. I agree with Yemon's assumption that Joel intended gender-neutrality, but probably better safe than sorry in these delicate matters.

    Finally: I miss 'tea'. It's nice getting away from points and the rigid question-answer format for a change. :-)