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Trying to keep the discussion about language and meaning, and hopefully not getting socio-political, is "girls" a valid counterpart for "guys", as in "guys and girls"? The intention is to describe a mixed group of men and women in suitably casual terms.

"Guys" is unproblematic. However, "girls" could be taken to be diminutive. I personally don't, as I understand the intention to simply be equivelent to "guys", but I can see how some might take issue with it.

It seems that a generation or so ago it was common enough to say "guys and gals", but "gals" seems archaic now.

If not "girls", then what?

Also, it seems that "guys" can be used to mean both men and women, without having to specify the presence of women. However, I think the default assumption is still an all male group. In any case, I'm looking for an uncontroversial casual term for a group of women on the same level as "guys".

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    Related: What is a feminine version of 'guys'?, Is “guy” gender-neutral?, and a few others (look at the questions linked from those). – RegDwigнt Jul 14 '11 at 9:45
  • Thank you for the links. Those definitely are related, but, just in case it is not clear, I think this question stands on its own in that the objective of saying "guys and gals" is to specifically convey that the group being talked about necessarily has both men and women. Including women in "guys", or finding a feminine version of "guys", are vague about the possibility of having both genders present, or specific about having only one, respectively. – Questioner Jul 19 '11 at 15:56
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Normally the term comparable to guys is gals.

And I think this is one case where Google NGrams can actually be useful. Here we see that guys and gals and gals and guys clearly outnumber girls and guys and guys and girls.

NGram of girls, guys, and gals

Note that girls by itself crushes gals in usage, but that only supports the contention, because girls is mainly used to describe female children.

NGram of girls versus gals

In fact, if we NGram girls with boys (i.e., male children) we see that the usage is roughly comparable.

NGram of girls versus boys

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    The first graph actually shows the opposite of what you claim it shows. That said, I still think it’s useful, and it still shows that “guys and gals” is entirely appropriate. – Konrad Rudolph Jul 14 '11 at 14:24
  • I gave this answer the nod for it's objectivity with the graphs. Also, while I think it shows "gals" is falling out of favour, it is still clearly well in use, more than I thought. – Questioner Jul 19 '11 at 15:50
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"Guys and gals" isn't archaic, and I'd say it's your best bet here if you want to avoid simply saying "guys", in a casual context.

Much more formal is "ladies and gentlemen", though that would definitely not be used casually.

If you're not addressing the people but rather describing the group, they could be described as "men and women".

If you just want to refer to a group of (maybe) people of mixed gender, you could say "guys", "everyone", "people", "y'all", etc.

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Most men don't appreciate being called "boys", but few women take offence at being called "girls".

"Guys and dolls" might be a step too far in the wrong direction, though.

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    I think you're mistaken about how women feel about being called "girls." – Kit Z. Fox Jul 14 '11 at 11:54
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    Perhaps, and perhaps it's different geographically, but here, anything that implies a woman is young is generally a good thing. – Mark Wallace Jul 14 '11 at 12:48
  • @Mark: the slightest variation in usage can make large changes in implication. Ie it depends on how you use 'girls' (and if you're female too). – Mitch Jul 14 '11 at 13:27
  • Well, if you say it while you're staring at their chests and drooling, don't expect less than a slap upside the ear-hole. – Mark Wallace Jul 14 '11 at 13:51
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    This is very dangerous territory for a guy. You see, many women actually quite enjoy the youthful connotation that comes with being called a "girl". Many however will instead see you as using a word meant for a child as a way of diminishing the value of anything they might have to say. Thus a wise man avoids this word when referring to adult women. – T.E.D. Jul 14 '11 at 19:39

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