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I've heard people saying phrases like down below.

"That's not cool, man"

"Dude, look at this"

"Hey, calm down, bro"

But these words are supposed to be said to a male person. (I could be wrong since I'm not an native English speaker) So what word do you use instead to say those phrases to a female person?

  • 4
    This looks irretrievably opinion-based. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 12 '18 at 23:30
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    @EdwinAshworth I don't think so. It's asking for the female counterpart to bro, just as answerable as what is the female version of 'renard' but for a female fox. It may very well not have a good answer. But that doesn't make the question opinion-based. – Mitch Mar 12 '18 at 23:34
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    @Mitch The POB close-vote reason is that non-vague answers are almost certain to reflect opinion rather than be consensual. 'Depends entirely on your relationship with her and how she feels about it.' / 'FYI, just saying.' – Edwin Ashworth Mar 12 '18 at 23:46
  • Thank you all who came here and commented or answered to my question. I appreciate your quick responce. I asked this question because I watched some Youtube videos in which some young American men are talking like this and I became curious what they would say to a woman if she's there. I know these words are impolite and should be used only between close friends. I'm not going to use these words anyways. But thank you all again for answering my question. This helps me a lot. – Towa Shina Mar 13 '18 at 0:26
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60

All three of these, man, dude, and bro, in about equal measure, are very informal, assume some familiarity, but are not rude or offensive. But their genderedness is different.

  • 'man' is a bit of an interjection, and as such is mostly ungendered.

    Man, that's a big shark.

    or

    Look, man, we're gonna need a bigger boat.

    The speaker is not addressing to a male, it's just a pointed way of drawing attention to the statement. So you can use 'man' as an interjection without taking into account gender of those around you (in these informal contexts).

  • 'dude' is nominally gendered and is usually used as a vocative for men, but can sometimes be used as such for women, though it is not an exact science.

    Dude, where's my car?

    'Dude' can be used for both genders, but still has a lot of maleness to it; it would seem a little strange if you were directing that at a woman. But it seems to be used more often these days with both genders.

    For women alternatives to dude, it is unclear.. There are nominal versions 'babe', 'chick', 'girl', 'hon' (for 'honey'), but these all (each in their own peculiar way) may be considered condescending (even if the intention is not). Don't use 'dudette'; that just sounds weird.

    So, you can probably use 'dude' for both genders, but it is a little questionable. I'd suggest you avoid it and just say 'hey' (but only at the beginning of a sentence, not at the end; really, nothing is simple in language).

  • 'bro' is entirely a vocative intended for males. If you heard someone say this to an unknown person, you would be very surprised if they turned out to be female.

    Pass me some surf wax, bro.

    Don't use 'bro' for women.

For the latter two it is not clear exactly what the most appropriate alternatives for women are that match the same level of informality as 'dude' or 'bro'. There are words for groups of women: 'ladies', 'gals', 'girls', but they all have an old-fashioned connotation to them and condescending or paternalistic, especially if coming from a man.


Summary:

  • no need to change 'man'
  • for the others, 'dude', 'bro', 'pal', at the beginning of sentence use 'hey'. At the end, nothing.

Note: this is entirely for the informal General American English, unless otherwise noted. In some varieties, it is not uncommon to use nongendered vocatives that are terms of endearment with strangers, male or female: honey, sweetie, in Southern American English, 'love' in informal General British English.

Note 2: The sociolinguistics around these are complicated. Each term has its own nuances worth a lot more explanation (and research). This is a gross oversimplification.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Mar 16 '18 at 12:21
  • Summary of comments re 'dude': currently there are a lot of people who use 'dude' genderless. But also currently there are a lot of people who find it gendered. It may be generational or geographical, but the evidence is not clear. – Mitch Mar 16 '18 at 16:03
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You don't.

Instead, remove the unnecessary genderism:

"That's not cool."
"Look at this."
"Hey, calm down."

As a bonus, you are no longer using terms like "man", "dude" and "bro" to males, either, who do not assuredly appreciate being addressed in this "street" manner in the first place.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Mar 16 '18 at 12:22
19

Using a male-gendered term to refer to females is highly regional.

For example, in the Northeastern U.S., it's normal for a teenage girl to approach a table full of other teenage girls and address them as "guys". I don't believe that usage would be considered normative in other parts of the English-speaking world (certainly not in most of the U.S.).

Similarly, most of these terms don't have female forms, at least not non-regional ones. "Girl" as suggested earlier, is close-ish to one, but it would never be used by many demographics (white women over 50 in most of the U.S., for example), and is widely considered rude when used by a man.

Without making the answer specific to a region or demographic, there's no very good answer to your question.

  • 2
    This is also documented to occur at the western end of the Inland North accent or dialect, not just the eastern end: Michigan, Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and Minnesota. – tchrist Mar 14 '18 at 0:22
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    This "guys" usage is common in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Georgia, and not just for teens. – Aster Mar 14 '18 at 18:15
  • Actually, I think this is quite common in the US generally. Certainly I see it daily here in Florida, and it is also widely used this way on TV shows and in movies. – barbecue Mar 17 '18 at 15:40
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The best term is actually girl. Alternative words include sis and sister. I’ve also heard girlfriend though that’s more common among older people (~late 20s to 30s as opposed to teens and college-aged people).

“That’s not cool, man” → “That’s not cool sis.

“Dude, look at this!” → “Girl, look at this!

“Hey, calm down, bro” → “Sister. Calm down.

Which words should be used and where in a sentence (and if they take a comma, double comma, period, or no punctuation at all) involves a lot of subtlety; it’s probably idiomatic. For example, don’t say

“Girlfriend, that’s not cool.”

“Look at this(,) girl!”†

“Hey, sis, calm down!”

Since you’re asking this question I will assume you’re not a “native” speaker, so I’d avoid trying to imitate it in your writing.

Edit:

Keep in mind that, just like dude, bro, etc are mainly used among groups of guys and their close female friends, girl, sis, etc are mainly used among groups of girls and their close male friends. Setting matters too. I wouldn’t imagine you’d use any of these terms in say, the workplace, regardless of who you’re talking to.

I can’t really think of any popular examples of specific cross-terms that a guy would use to address a girl or vice-versa. This is probably because men tend to hang out with other men and women tend to hang out with other women, so cross-terms have never really had a chance to develop. In my experience, people will use whatever set of words corresponds to the majority in the friend group, and use them to address everyone in the group, regardless of gender.

Also, although this isn’t exactly an answer, you can sidestep the issue by replacing the gendered terms with something like “yo” which sounds just as natural and casual.

“That’s not cool, man” → “Yo that ain’t cool.

“Dude, look at this!” → “Yo, look at this!

“Hey, calm down, bro” → “Yo. Calm down.

Yo is only appropriate if you’re trying to address them and get their attention at the same time though. If you want to say something like “girl/bro lay off, I’ve had a real tough day,” you need the gendered terms.


† This can instead mean “I can’t believe this <person I don’t like> is actually doing that right now!!” if you omit the comma (for example if you’re texting) so most people put “girl” at the front to avoid that ambiguity and it spills back over into spoken language.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Mar 16 '18 at 12:23
15

In my neighborhood, most (average) women don't like to be treated as "one of the guys". We expect and prefer to be treated like ladies. "Dude, guy, man, bro" -- when spoken to a lady, are considered low-class here. We might not complain, but you'll get a confused, disapproving, or disappointed look if you do it. It is always people who are not from here, who speak that way. Women are usually addressed as Ms. ___ or ma'am, here. FYI, just saying. (American South)

4

In certain regions and subcultures, "dude" is approaching a gender neutral status. This usage is more commonplace in the 30 and under crowd. See also this post.

I hear people use "dude" and "my dude" as interjections fairly commonly in various West Coast US cities, for example, after living here for the past decade. The latter is said with some playful bonhomie, and it mimics "my friend" in usage.

So, my dude, feel free to play with the language. And if someone objects, dude, that's a bummer - but remember to respect their preferences.

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    Yes, my teenager refers to me, his mom, as "dude" and I'm fine with it. On the other hand, if the situation isn't one of friendly banter, I think it would be best to drop the gendered references entirely. – Aster Mar 14 '18 at 18:14
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Generally, the best approach might be to avoid these situations entirely, as suggested in other answers. This answer isn't meant to imply that the below approaches should be used, but rather just providing the information for completeness's sake.

Plural situations: "people" or "folks"

When the phrase is plural, e.g.

Relax, guys!

, substitutions are possible:

  • Relax, people!

  • Relax, folks!

While there are singular variants to these words (e.g., person), they're not typically used in this context and would sound strange.

Sometimes, "guys"

"Guys" is traditionally gendered as male, though it's relatively common to accept it in genderless cases.

As others have noted, this is culturally dependent, though I suspect that it's more commonly accepted across sub-cultures than most similar variants.

Dangerously, slurs or other offensive terms

Can't stress enough that this is a dangerous tactic, even for a native speaker, but sometimes slurs or other offensive references can be used in highly informal situations.

I suspect that this can work because, typically, offensive forms of address are highly likely to cause a negative reaction. In the rare cases that they don't, it implies a close bond between speaker and listener. When such a bond exists, and the speaker accepts the risk in attempting it, they can attempt to call attention to that close bond by using offensive terminology.

But, I mention that only for completeness's sake; it's rarely wise tactic.

  • I wouldn't say that it's the level of formality that makes certain slurs acceptable in some situations. For example, a white person would be advised not to refer to a black person as "nigga" as that would be seen as highly offensive, despite it being common in ebonic slang. No level of informality changes that fact. – forest Mar 17 '18 at 7:23
  • @forest I didn't mean to imply that that approach could be appropriate in any highly informal situation, but rather the reverse. This is, any situation in which folks are referring to each other using slurs or other offensive terms is highly informal. – Nat Mar 17 '18 at 7:26
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You asked, "what word do you use instead to say those phrases to a female person?" The answer is not as complicated as it is being made to be.

"I'm glad I could help you out, sis."

Such a sentence, addressed to a female is a perfect analog of the equivalent sentence addressed to a male.

 

For Example:

 

Sis = Bro

Dude = fairly gender neutral

Man = girl

 

Come on man! => Girl, come on!

Dude look at that! Can be said to anyone.

What's up bro? = What's up sis?

For all those people insinuating that the use of a so called "gendered term" is inherently inappropriate or distasteful, you are wrong.

It all depends on context, and if you are aware of your surroundings these terms may or may not be the ones you use. But don't tell others to refrain from using them because you personally don't. Cultural differences may ultimately come into play here as well.

There are ways to express similar terms or relationships to men and women, you just have to be creative.

  • Do you have references to support these assertions? Or is this all just anecdote? (And if so, you really ought to qualify it with where you heard them, and amongst whom, because that matters - a lot.) – Toby Speight Mar 14 '18 at 17:10
  • In my experience (Male, Late 20s, United Kingdom), Bro is a far less intimate term than Sis. I've never known anyone use Sis who wasn't a very close friend to that person. While "Bro" is practically a peer-address in a certain age group. It's not saying "you're family" it's saying "you and I are on even footing" in a friendly fashion. Interpretations may vary depending on culture and region. – Ruadhan2300 Mar 15 '18 at 13:41
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AFAIK 'girl' is the only commonly used one that maps closely to those (highly informal and gendered). But it would be strange for a man use it - can be done, but usually ironically.

Also "dude", "bro", and "man" can be used to refer to women, either because the word has achieved a sort of gender neutrality or playfully with someone who you trust.

I slightly disagree with many of the other posters saying you shouldn't ever use these terms 'because there's no reason to risk it' - taking risks interpersonally can be a way way to build rapport and familiarity, and constantly worrying about stepping on toes is no way to live. But if you aren't fairly sure that it's OK, don't do it.

  • If you wouldn't say "boy," don't say "girl." – Aster Mar 14 '18 at 18:11
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    They aren't really analogous, different connotations/colloquial meanings. For example female friends frequently call each other "girl", never heard "boy" used that way. – John K Mar 14 '18 at 18:45
  • "Girl" can be received as poorly by an adult woman as "boy" by a man, if you consider the fact that female servants were commonly referred to by that particular appellation. books.google.com/… However, I realize it's common usage. I'm not criticizing anyone for their speech habits, because I know from firsthand experience how easy it is to pick up those habits, through imitation. It's just that with maturity, I've begun to question and be a little more choosy wth words. – Bread Mar 14 '18 at 22:42
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    isn't it funny how it is only group nouns for men that are becoming used for mixed groups, just like always – WendyG Mar 15 '18 at 13:15
  • @Aster Depending on the culture, "girl" can be completely acceptable, even when "boy" might not. Their difference is more than just referring to the opposite sex. – forest Mar 17 '18 at 7:17

protected by Mitch Mar 14 '18 at 18:30

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