Thursday, September 09, 2004

Hey, You Guys!

Forgive the foray into spoken English, but I must address yet another example (scroll to the end) of someone going out of her way to be offended by the use of "you guys" to refer to mixed company. This is a staple of amateur restaurant criticism.

Point No. 1: There's plenty of better stuff to complain about when it comes to restaurant service.

Point No. 2: I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- "you guys" is to the more vanilla regions of these United States what "y'all" and "you all" are to the South, what "youze" is to New York and New Jersey, what "yuz" is to Appalachia. English uses the same word for second person plural and second person singular, and sometimes it just doesn't satisfy.

(And, yes, that was me. For the record, I've never met Mr. Sietsema.)

13 comments:

Frank said...

I certainly agree that there are far worse things to complain about in restaurants.*

But even if "guys" is quite widely used, I don't think it's the way I want a waiter to address me and my companions at a restaurant. It might be okay at a pizza place or TGIF, but I certainly don't want to hear it at a fine restaurant.

* One thing I don't like is restaurants where one person takes the order, then another person delivers the food from the kitchen to the table. But the person delivering the food never has any idea who ordered what and has to ask about every item: "who has the iced tea? who has the chef's salad? burger?"

Bill said...

Yes, the formality complaint is valid. It's when people see a gender insult that I get steamed.

The "Who had the ...?" nonsense is also a valid complaint. There's a term for it: "auctioning off" the food.

Frank said...

"Auctioning" food: Reminds me of a story. Decades ago when I was 8 or 9 years old I was with my family on a Florida vacation. We went to a restaurant with my grandparents, so there were 6 of us at the table. All I remember about the place was that it had a big porch with lots of wicker furniture and potted plants. Everyone ordered a soup or salad, meal, drink, and choice of vegetables. The waiter just stood there with his hands behind his back. The adults commented "he didn't write anything down!". He brought the food and put every item in front of the person who ordered it. No mistakes. (And he was working several tables in the room.) I think he got a big tip.

Bill said...

The no-write server has been a topic on those Sietsema chats. (I read about eating way too much.) I don't think the wow factor outweighs the risk of getting things wrong.

Bridey Murphy said...

In most larger restaurants now, not writing it down isn't an option even if the waiter is a showoff -- the whole system breaks down if there aren't physical checks to move through.

"You guys" seems fine to me in addressing a mixed or even all-female group in an informal restaurant. And it's infinitely less offensive than middle-aged women being called "young ladies" ("What would you young ladies like today?") by some 20-year-old twerp of a waiter.

Blind Tangerine Jones said...

Thank youse guys for reminding me of "youse." I've lived in New York for nearly a decade, and while I do call people "pal" now, I should probably move to the next level of linguistic assimilation. Hey, I'm blogging heah!

Nicole said...

What impresses me about waiters: when I get my order right, even if that means they write down every word I say. This happens so infrequently that I can't believe waiters even *try* to remember it all.

Was there some big waiter convention where they taught that this would impress diners? If so, shame on them. Just write down the F'ing order.

Daryl said...

Back when I did my Dialects of English class, I've heard the hypothesis that the "Hey You Guys" intro of the Electric Company had something to do with the increased spread of "you guys" as the second person plural across America.

And there's also "all y'all"...

Quill Enparchment said...

How about "you folks"? That's a little too casual for formal dining, but I think it's okay in a regular restaurant for use when referring to mixed company. It shows a little more respect for the female diner and helps the waiter avoid making a faux pas that could compromise a good tip.

Bill said...

"Folks" would annoy me anywhere but in a very rustic joint in the sticks.

Nessie said...

In Japan, where I live, the waiters always "auction off" the food, even when the server is the one who takes the order. It just doesn't seem to be an issue here, perhaps because there's no tipping. This happens even where there are only two items ordered for a table of two.

David said...

Actually, there are many folks who live in the rest of the world - i.e., rustic joints in the sticks.

Cancergrrrl said...

Of course the MEN always have issues with females (and some males) commenting on the "You Guys" thing..but if the were reffered as "You Girls" or "You Ladies" or "You Gals" in mixed company they would have an uproar...the point it's DON'T USE IT!