Inclusive language, y'all

Wed, 16 Nov 1994 13:12:19 CST

All of this talk about inclusive language reminded me of a negative
comment a student wrote on a course evaluation form in one of my
classes last year. He or she (well, I think it was a woman, but
I don't know that for sure since the comments were anonymous) said
that my class was less than wonderful in part because I used the
sexist phrase "you guys" to refer to the whole class. This had
never occurred to me before. Now I am careful at the beginning
of each semester to explain to my classes that although I will
try to use the more inclusive "y'all" for the second person plural,
if I happen to slip and use "you guys," it is because I'm a
Yankee, not a sexist (although I'm sure many of my students think
that the former is worse than the latter). I also sometimes
suggest that if I do happen to slip and use some Yankee-ese, it
will provide for them an interesting little cross-cultural experience,
a chance to interact with someone raised in that very alien culture
of the North (Ohio, to be exact).

Have any other transplanted Yankees had similar misunderstandings
with students over the phrase "you guys"? My sister once had a friend
from Tennessee who hated the phrase, but I don't think she thought it
was sexist, just ugly and Yankee-ish.


Lee Cronk
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX 77843-4352
Office: 409-847-9254
Fax: 409-845-4070