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Recently, in a magazine, I read the following line:

It's been an eventful year and boy, has it flown past!

My question is, what does the word "boy" mean here? Is it an idiom? What is its usage?

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@FumbleFingers: This came before your linked question. Shouldn't the dupe go the other direction? –  Mitch Mar 19 '12 at 17:29
    
@Mitch: Yes, if you subscribe to the principle that "priority" goes to the first of related questions/answers. But I don't recognise that principle as appropriate here on ELU, whereas I do recognise that the top-rated answer here comes nowhere near answering the question as appropriately as the one on the later question. This one has just collected more votes because it's been here for a long time, but - no disrespect to Dusty - it's hardly a "canonical" answer. –  FumbleFingers Mar 19 '12 at 17:46

2 Answers 2

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Boy in this usage is an interjection that is an exclamation of surprise, wonder, contempt, etc. In this particular sentence, it's just emphasizing how quickly the year has flown by.

You hear it pretty frequently in the "Oh Boy!" which used earnestly usually indicates excitement about something (or when used sarcastically, expresses dread).

wow, golly or gee whiz are similar expressions you might hear in these contexts as well. crikey fills the same function but is limited to UK/Australian English.

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“Wow” also gets used much the same way, and “crikey” is very similar for UK/Aussie speakers. –  PLL Dec 8 '10 at 15:47
    
@PLL - good notes. I edited them in, thanks! –  Dusty Dec 8 '10 at 15:56
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Actually, more relevantly, man is also used somewhat similarly: “Man, that was awesome!”, or “Oh, man, this’ll be tough.” Dude is maybe partway in drifting from a standard vocative to a having several interjective meanings, but (in the dialects I know) hasn’t come as far as man or boy, and its interjective senses have a slightly different feel — discussed much at tinyurl.com/2dqbeho Language Log. I don’t know any feminine examples of this process, though for some speakers dude is pretty much gender-neutral. –  PLL Dec 8 '10 at 15:57

A less common usage is "man."

"Man, this is great."

It is a way of addressing no one in particular.

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