The Evolution of the Dude
“Duuuuude. Not cool.”
Anyone younger than the age of 80 has definitely heard the term “dude” used frequently, and most likely used it themselves. In its modern context, dude does not mean anything close to what it is described as in the dictionary. As with all words, its meaning has evolved over time, becoming a new term all together. The place most likely to be able to define it, Urbandictionary.com, comes up with over 200 entries, all posted by people attempting to define this versatile term. This raises the question, what exactly is a dude?
Dude can be used in a variety of situations, but one thing is clear-it is a noun. There is no such thing as “duding” and nothing can be described as dude. A dude is without a doubt a noun, and always refers to a person.
Then one must ask, what sort of person is a dude? The term was originally associated with surfer boys, the tanned, happy-go-lucky denizens of beaches everywhere. Their laid-back attitudes were portrayed by their unique approach to language, including their preferred term of familiarity, dude. Soon, however, its usage spread, and was being used by Americans everywhere. At the height of its popularity, the word was even the focus of the running joke in the 2000 movie Dude Where’s my Car? As its use continued, dude became applicable to more and more situations, used to express a wide variety of emotions and ideas. “Dude!” used as an exclamation has much more meaning than the one word lets on. It can mean “Hey, look at that!” or “Whoa, man, watch it!” When the “u” sound is drawn out longer than normal, it serves as a warning. “Duuuuude” can easily translate to “Not okay. Why would you ever say that?” The third of the common uses is as a simple salutation, just to greet a friend, “Hey dude, what’s up?” Dude is one of the most multifaceted nouns in today’s popular language, easily applied to all but the most formal of situations.
Dude, in its original form, is most definitely applied to a male. Nowadays, anyone and everyone uses the term and can be referred to as a dude. The problem with this is that it can sometimes go too far. There is no gender specification with the term anymore, leading to much confusion. My psychology professor referred to a singular male as a dude, our class as a whole as dudes, and then three chatting girls as dudes. Where will the madness end? Not only is there no male/female distinction to the term anymore (dudette does not have the same impact), people of all ages can use it and may be referred to by it as well. If this overuse and vagueness continue, people will become tired of it. Once your grandma calls you dude, that’s it. I for one do not want to live in a dude-less world. That is why we must not only define this term; we must remind middle-aged folk who so desperately want to be hip, that unless they are an ex-surfer or have some other sufficiently good reason to say the word, dude is off limits to them. Although this policy may seem harsh, it is for their own good as well as ours. They will not seem silly calling everyone they meet “dude” and we will be able to use this wonderfully versatile term without fear of growing tired of it.