He’s THAT Guy

640px-Guy_Fawkes_effigy_by_William_Warby_from_FlickrIf you speak to an American, before long (very soon) you’ll probably hear him or her use the word “guy.” That’s because we use it all the time in conversation.

When the noun is singular — “guy” — it’s used to refer to a man.

“What is that guy doing over there?”
“While waiting for her friends at the cafe, Shayla met a guy named Liam.”

When it’s plural — “guys” — it can be used either to mean more than one man, as in:

“Do you think there are more guys who are fans of football than women?”
“Can you get a group of strong guys to help us move this piano?”

Or, “guys” can mean more than one person of any sex — men or women, boys or girls:

“Okay guys, we need to finish this project this afternoon or else we’ll have to work over the weekend.”
“Do you guys want to come over to watch a movie tonight?”

There is some debate about whether “guys” can be used for a group of all girls or all women, though I would not hesitate to use it this way and would not be surprised or feel strange to hear others use it this way.  To make sure this isn’t a gender (men/women) difference in usage, I asked Jeff and he agreed.  He would use the term “guys” with a group of all girls or women. too.

This usage of “guy” can be confusing for English learners, but you’ll hear the word used all the time by Americans. Surprisingly, though, the origins of the word may have darker (unhappy; unpleasant) beginnings.

Some people believe that the word “guy” has it origins (beginnings) in the name Guy Fawkes. In England in 1605, Guy Fawkes and his conspirators (people who shared a secret plan) attempted to assassinate (kill, usually an important person) the English king at the time, King James I. The plan did not succeed and Guy Fawkes was captured (caught).

To this day, on November 5th of each year, England celebrates the foiling (ruining) of this plan by burning an effigy (likeness; rough model of a person) of Guy Fawkes and having fireworks (explosions of lights in the sky) and bonfires (large, open fires, usually for entertainment or celebration). The word “guy,” over time, became a derogatory (insulting) slang word for a man, especially a poorly dressed one.

At some point, the term made its way (traveled) to the United States, and over time, lost its negative connotation (association) and became a general term for men or people. I would bet that most Americans do not know or suspect (guess) that there is any connection between this ubiquitous (found everywhere) term and a 17th century English plot (secret plan to do harm).

– Lucy

Photo Credit: From Wikipedia

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11 Responses to He’s THAT Guy

  1. Dan says:

    Hello Lucy.

    Thank you for filling up a gap in my vast ignorance. I did not know that.

    I heard of the use of “guys” towards a group of women in movies and if I remember that well, in several of your own podcast, so I figured it was acceptable.

    Actually, we do the same in Italian. Especially when the group is made out of both gender.

    Thank you Lucy

  2. Marcos says:

    Hi everyone

    As always thank you Lucy for showing new words to us. So I’ll tell you something about the word “guy”. Guy means “cara” in my country. Usually say “cara” mostly for a man. “Cara” means friend, people, man. “Cara” means “face” too and have others meanings more than “guy” in English.

    Nice day guys

  3. Dan says:

    Me again sorry.

    Reading the article it is interesting to learn this kind of “enhanced interrogation” called -Hanged Drawn and Quartered” that this poor guy Guy had to “practice”.
    Wow! isn’t that little too harsh on someone? Unbelievable what they did back then.


  4. MOhammad reza says:

    Hello Dr. Lucy Tse

    I really appreciate your great job during the years of making eslpod.
    I believe You and Dr.Jeff have had a big effect on lots of English learners.
    I personally have learned English and lots of other information about America and American people.
    I think it is meager to just give a thanks, but it is my only ability.


  5. Thiago Messias says:

    That´s is super interesting. You guys are always bringing somthing new, cool, entertaining and awesome!
    I´m sharing this with my friends over here in Brazil. Thanks a lot.

  6. Tania says:

    Hi! I have thought that we can use the word “guy” only for men.
    Thank you for your explanation.

    Interesting explanation for the difference between “hi” and “hey”.
    We use the same word with the same pronunciation [hei] to attract attention or to express surprise, angry about something.

  7. peter says:

    What do u know!
    The word “guy ” has a history of its own. It is one of the most common words in English and has such pronounced character in the course of English language history. Quite amusing , indeed

    Quite amazing , the way words’ concepts and connotations change over the time.

  8. peter says:

    U know guys
    What I have in mind is to show up here more frequently so I can improve my lousy writing.
    But,What I have on mind is the holiday weight that I m getting during the holiday season. I resent that. Every year around Christmass time, the thought of getting fat hunts rather troubles me. This year around , I decided to attack it heads on. I know , it is very hard but i decided to take the ball by horns this time around.
    I decided to eat right and excercise for sometime . I have started jogging and doing Pilate every morning. My goal is to drop 10 pounds. So I can eat sweet stuff to my heart contents during Christmass time????

  9. Tania says:

    Hi! Good luck , Peter , in your effort to change your look!

  10. Parviz says:

    You know what I am the guy who is crazy about this great blog.
    And all the subscribers and post writers, etc.
    I am the guy who pays 6 bucks every week to get his internet charged so that he can be able to log in every day and each day.
    I am the guys who never find a word worth the attention and effort Lucy puts on this outstanding human endeavor called ESL pod.
    I am the guy who wishes your plans never get foiled, nor somebody burn your effigy for being NICE and Lovely.

    And you are the guys who read whatever crazy thing I write.
    Remember I told you about “Yalda Night”, the longest night in our calender, which is the last night of Fall, too?
    It’s going to be in 2 weeks, and people are slowly moving to get ready for this annually event. me too.
    I am going to make a big effigy of …….. (better not to say) and burn it. afterwards may I can put a selfie on YouTube so you can watch.

    I am going to make a new “guy”. Stand by.

  11. Victor Kusminsky says:

    Informative, interesting, useful…

Comments are closed.