Venkat's Blog - started late though ;)
A Very Cool 4-Letter Word
The coolest four-letter word is "dude."
That's the proclamation from a linguist at the University of Pittsburgh, who has published a scholarly paper in the journal American Speech that deconstructs and deciphers the word "dude." (Yes, he was paid to do that.)
Hey dude, Scott Kiesling insists that "dude" is much more than a simple catchall for lazy, inarticulate surfers, skaters, slackers, and teenagers, reports The Associated Press. It's ability to morph into multiple meanings and uses has ensured its place in the lexicon of old and young alike.
Here are some of the many uses of "dude"--just in case you doubted the eminent professor:
Greetings: "What's up, dude?"
An exclamation: "Whoa, dude!"
Commiseration: "Dude, I'm so sorry."
A great one-up: "That's so lame, dude."
Agreement, surprise, and disgust (depending on your tone): "Dude."
How "dude" was used historically:
Originally: It meant "old rags." A "dudesman" was a scarecrow.
Late 1800s: A "dude" was akin to a "dandy," a meticulously dressed man, especially out West.
1930s and 1940s: "Dude" became cool.
1981: Dude became part of the teenage lexicon with the movie "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."
Kiesling explains that the word derives its power from something he calls cool solidarity, which is an effortless kinship that's not too intimate. AP notes that cool solidarity is especially important to young men who are under social pressure to be close with other young men, but not enough to be suspected as gay. "It's like man or buddy, there is often this male-male addressed term that says, 'I'm your friend but not much more than your friend,'" Kiesling told AP.
The dude study: As part of his extensive research decoding the finer shades of meaning of "dude," Kiesling listened to conversations with fraternity brothers whom he taped in 1993. In addition, in 2001 and 2002 he asked undergraduate students in sociolinguistics classes to write down the first 20 times they heard the word "dude" and who said it during a three-day period.
The results, dude: He found the word taps into nonconformity and a new American image of leisurely success, notes AP.
* Men used "dude" much more than women, although the ladies did sometimes call each other dudes. (Dudettes?)
* The least frequent use of "dude" is between genders, and when it is used, it comes with rules. "Men report that they use dude with women with whom they are close friends, but not with women with whom they are intimate," according to the study.
* And the people with whom the students were least likely to use the word "dude" is with parents, bosses, and professors. Authority figures are not dudes.
And that's the word, dude.