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OK . . . another one similar to "What is a feminine version of 'guys'?"

"Dude" is masculine; what is the feminine version?

The usage I'm thinking of is that "dude" nowadays is used primarily as a way to address a person very colloquially, e.g.:

  • "Dude, why are you squirting rubbing alcohol on the grill to start it up?"

  • "Dude, pass me a brew."

Again as in the other "guys" case, it might be culturally acceptable to say "dude" to a female, but I'm not sure, and it feels a little wrong (and has for 30 years).

So what are some suggestions for acceptable female-gendered alternatives?

  • babe: might work, but sounds a little too diminutive (or does it?)
  • dudette: cute, but hasn't caught on (but could it?)

Australians have "bruce" and "sheila" (I hear from the movies) but that just doesn't fly in AmE (and maybe that's already out of fashion).

What do Californians say (as "dude" in my description seems to come from there)? What do the surfers say?

Any suggestions? It may be the suggestion is that there is no perfect parallel.

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To clarify, the situation I'm asking about is as a 'call-word' (a vocative, a stand alone hey-you (what -is- the word for this)), not as a referential noun. The later is -very- gendered, it says exactly what sex a person is, and the feminine version is most likely 'lady'. E.g. 'Was it a dude or a lady who was caught shoplifting at Victoria's Secret?' –  Mitch Dec 5 '11 at 2:24
    
No one in Australia uses Bruce or Sheila as pronouns. Never have, never will. Its as accurate to say that as it is to say Australians like to "throw shrimp on the barbie". –  Lego Stormtroopr Mar 3 at 1:38
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12 Answers 12

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I've heard the Spanish chica increasingly used this way by English speakers:

chica

noun

a female friend. Also used endearingly as "chiquita".

What's up, chica?

The Online Slang Dictionary

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I've heard this as well, and it is the best counterpart to "dude" I can think of. –  Caleb Apr 2 '11 at 18:26
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I find this the best sounding so far, but it sounds very nuyorican. But maybe we should just start using it. Or stick with dudette (a web search gives this as thee most popular answer), but to me sounds every time like a neologism. –  Mitch Apr 3 '11 at 14:41
    
Someone downvoted this, it would help to know why. –  Callithumpian May 13 '11 at 4:01
    
I don't find the usage very endearing, though it may be used as a term of endearment. –  TimLymington Dec 5 '11 at 12:19
    
For the sake of clarity, chica is Spanish for "young girl" rather than "female friend". In particular, there is no connotation of friendship whatsoever in chica to a Spaniard's ears. I am aware this may be different elsewhere. Just for the record. –  CesarGon Jan 30 '12 at 14:39
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Among many of my friends (mostly 20-somethings, geeky, scattered throughout UK/US/Canada, including a couple of Californians), dude as a form of address is completely gender-neutral. So I often greet some of my female friends with “Dude, how’s things going?” or similar.

As a noun referring to other people, though, it’s usually still male-specific for me: “We passed a bunch of crazy dudes in the street…” would imply an all-male group, or at least predominantly male.

Of course, though, this is all hugely subculture-dependent!

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There's always "dudette", but that's seldom used when talking to someone. IME, it's more used in phrasing like "Dudes and dudettes, listen up!"

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Yeppers, it’s definitutely dudette, not dudess. That said, I’ve heard duder, kinda like Scooter for Scott. –  tchrist Apr 3 '11 at 18:05
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I'm from california and am a teenager. We still use dude to refer to girls. I'm a girl and i would say to my other female friends "dude I found a gnarly trail yesterday, we should for sure scope it out yeah?" Or else if you're trying to summon a group then we just say the typical "guys, look!" ya know? Oh and never ever say dudette. You'll get the worst look for trying to be a surfer poser. And no one really says 'chica' either in cali so i wouldn't suggest that. But i mean if you visit norcal, at least, just stick with your native slang, we love people's phrases from other places, especially if you're from England, its a mutual love for each other yeah? California loves England, England loves California. Or else don't use any name, just say "pass me the sauce" instead of "dude or brah pass me the brew". Brah is also super commonly used, typically between bros but some stoner chicks use it too.

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Thanks for the report from the field! –  Monica Cellio Jan 30 '12 at 13:54
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According to a 1901 article quoted in this answer to the question, Etymology of “dude” and progression in language, the original feminine version of dude was dud. (Just adding this as a historical curiosity, not a present-day suggestion.)

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I wonder why it never took off? –  Ed Guiness May 6 '11 at 11:41
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I saw that...I haven't yet seen a good semantic transition etymology of the word that goes from 'city clicker' to 'general vocative for surfers'. –  Mitch May 6 '11 at 13:18
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I've used chick (or chica on ocassion) for this purpose. Lately if it's someone I know extremely well and am close to I'll use hooker but I think that won't last too long before it gets old.

Here in the south we also use girrrrrrrrrrrl with a drawl when you want to engage someone for further conversation as opposed to a casual greeting/acknowledgment.

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+1. I've always said "chick" in roughly the same way, and assume that it's an anglicized version of "chica". I would never use "dude" (that's bros, dude) or "chica" (muy Spanish, dude). –  Patrick87 Jan 30 '12 at 21:47
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Most recently it's "Dude". I've heard it mostly between females but frequently enough to consider it current slang. It's always said with a bit of irony, usually as an exclamation; "Dude!" It's meant to be funny and a little edgy. Just a personal observation.

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Why not just "girl?" "Chica" is probably specific to areas with large Hispanic populations, and "dudette" is almost never used except as a parody of California slang. "Girl" seems a quite close match for "dude;" it's colloquial and highly familiar, but it doesn't have the vaguely rude connotation of "guy."

Girl, pass me a brew.

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Dude, as a colloquial term of address, is gender-neutral. It's also somewhat familiar. Jon Stewart called the President "dude" during an interview on The Daily Show. That tells me dude is rather common, relatively. The people who thought Stewart was being too familiar were largely older, or more formal generally, or in the press and found it a breach of etiquette. I am so used to hearing people address each other as dude, I didn't even notice!

The first time I was addressed as dude, I was an adult, and this was about fifteen years ago. Since I am female, it hit my ear wrong. The guy (yes, guy) who called me "dude" said it was a term of endearment, so that put me at ease. Then I heard it more often and from other people. Like I said, I don't think about it anymore. If you've been hearing it for thirty years and it still hits your ear as exclusively male, maybe that will never change. But the kids these days, they pretty much use it as gender-neutral.

A female equivalent would have to be both familiar and common. I don't think there is a word that perfectly fits that.

Sometimes I say/hear "chick", but that's very familiar. Don't say it to someone you don't know. "Babe" is extremely familiar. Don't even think of saying that to a stranger. Sometimes I say/hear "chica", which is also familiar, but I live in New York and hear it a lot. I would never call a guy "chico".

Dudette? Really, dude? No one says dudette, unless they're being self-conscious about it.

So, sorry, I think you'll have to get used to calling women "dude". But hey, I did, so there's hope.

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For me, the most natural female replacement for dude would be hon (short for 'honey', used rather sarcastically):

Look, dude, I'm not interested.
Look, hon, I'm not interested.

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I don't believe hon is any better a match for dude than other hon synonyms, especially babe or doll. –  sarah Dec 10 '11 at 3:58
    
Hon merits a faceslap in response; dude merely an eyeroll*. Those are hardly equivalent. –  tchrist Mar 3 at 7:00
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The problem's that most of the female alternatives given come off as either infantializing (girl, sis, babe, chick), belittling, or otherwise chock full of male gaze (hon, sweetie).

Dudette doesn't have these problems, but is clunky and feels like a PC afterthought of "dude".

"Gal" might be the best female-specific option, but I'm thinking we're just gonna have to stick with "dude" until a better female or gender-neutral term arises.

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I don't find 'sis' belittling (it's not in its literal sense and has semantic parity with 'bro'). Also, how do 'hon' and 'sweetie' have associated male gaze (I find them to be used mostly by women anyway (men in the south?) not that that means denies the attitude). Can you elaborate how you find male gaze in those two terms? Whatever the judgement, what do you find people use in these situations? (nobody (under 40) uses 'gal') –  Mitch Mar 2 at 21:05
    
+1 For point out the PC issue with using female gendered terms. While most men would take no umbrage to a woman saying "hey boys, listen up", many women might rightfully take issue with a man saying "hey girls/babes/chicks, listen up" because of the infantialisation (word?). –  Lego Stormtroopr Mar 3 at 1:42
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It depends upon your cultural background:

Girlfriend is certainly used amongst some sets, it is particularly popular amongst African Americans, but had been gaining in popularity amongst other groups.

I frequently use girlie or toots with my close female friends. If you don't know the person well enough, this may come off as misogynistic. My friends know me well enough to know I like speaking like a 1930s gangster at times, and find it cute.

And, of course as many before me have pointed out: dude has become androgynous.

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