Notes on “Dude” Usage

Yo dude, he’s the stallion

Ween

Author’s Note: The following is essentially a piece of linguistic ethnography.  Here on the kyotokibbizer, we are interested in how language is used and how it evolves.  Today, we are taking a look at the word “dude.”  A comprehensive look at dude usage would, of course, rival War and Peace in length, and we only ever got to page 330 or so of that SOB.  Therefore, what follows is a breakdown of some of the most common dude variants as used between, primarily, the American male of a certain demographic complexion.

Dude” I think, goes back to cowboy culture and something called “dude ranches.” I don’t really know what a dude ranch is; naturally I know a bit about the modern use of the term.  Below are some examples of “dude in the wild.”  The examples given are intended as neither endorsement or critique.  Dude variants simply abide.

I. “Dude, what the f***?”  One of the classic dude phrases, this is used to register sincere umbrage, usually with a friend or “mate.”  Examples include: a friend says something unkind about a woman you both know, a friend steps in front of your putt on a golf course, a friend takes the last juice from your refrigerator without asking, etc. “Dude, what the f***?” is a little tart, however it contains an opportunity for the offender to climb down. Example:

Guy 1: Dude, I don’t know about that chick Tracy.  She’s blowing me off and she’s really becoming kind of a bitch.

Guy 2: Dude, what the f***?  You know Tracy’s a friend of mine and she’s cool people. Come on man.

Guy 1: Sorry man, you’re right. It’s just been a rough week.

Guy 2: Dude that’s totally understandable. We love you man—we got you.

Comment: Illustrated here is a principal of male friendship where guys can speak sharply to each other, offend for a moment, and just totally get over it the next second.  Guys marvel at women, who sometimes seem to drag this reconciliation process out for aeons, counting count themselves lucky, in this instance, to be guys. 
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II. “Duuuuuude.”  This is used when a guy sees a guy he knows and hasn’t seen for a while.  It is often coupled with a hand shake and “bro-hug” and/ or a slap on the back. Example:

Guy I (seeing his friend approaching): “Duuuuude”

Guy II: Hey buddy, what’s up man?

Guy I: Duuuude, how the f*** are you?

Guy II: Dude, it’s crazy to see you man.

Guy I: Dude, I know right.  So what are we doing?  Are we drinking yet or what?

Comment: Illustrated here is the multi-purpose functionality of both “dude” and “man,” which may seem interchangeable to the untrained ear, but in fact have  different nuances and ideal placements in male patter. And, a good long “duuuuuude” can be very satisfying to unleash. 
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III. “Dude, that’s not the way we need this to go here”/ “Dude, that’s really not gonna get it done,” “Dude, I need you to take a step back and check yourself for a second,” etc.  These are all part of the very wide set of phrases that a manager can use with a direct. Managerial theory is divided on whether or not “dude,” is acceptable in supervisory conversations of this sort and strong opinions exist on both sides.  I side with the “yes” camp, but only in a basically dude-centric culture. As a middle-manger for many years in a former life, I have many times said things very similar to the above, using the person’s name or just “hold on” instead of “dude” as nods to a cross-cultural workplace. But in my head, I’m saying “dude” every time.

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