I often address people of all genders as "dude" but a female coworker said that dude has origins only pertaining to males and is therefore itself male. She challenged me to find a word to address all genders that has feminine origins. Any ideas?

Edit: I'm not necessarily looking for a feminine alternative, nor am I trying to convince my coworker that dude can be male or female. Her larger point was that dude was originally masculine and is used for all genders (same goes for buddy, et all). She didn't think there were any terms with female origins that are now used for both male and female. That's what I'm looking for.

  • Well, when I was in basic training, the drill sgt. (a Marine) called all of us "ladies"... – Cascabel Jul 18 '18 at 16:01
  • @Cascabel He presumably meant that pejoritavely, and I hope such behavior is no longer tolerated. – Barmar Jul 18 '18 at 16:17
  • There are many ways of answering this but none, I think, that can provide a name for friend that started off as being specifically feminine and which is now generic. – Jason Bassford Jul 18 '18 at 16:22
  • If you address everyone you interact with by something other than their name, you are probably offending some of them, at least if it isn’t sir or ma’am. – tchrist Jul 18 '18 at 16:29
  • @Barmar Hmmnn...that was one of the nicest things he used to call us. More colorful were maggot, worm, and lower than whale s**t . – Cascabel Jul 18 '18 at 19:43

Right, so here are some speech-contextual ideas about usage in AmE.

  • Listen, dude, you have no idea what you're saying.
  • Listen, man, you have no idea what you're saying. [basically the same thing.] These terms are used in addressing a single person; not a group of people.

For a woman:

  • Listen, lady, you have no idea what you're saying.
  • Listen, missy, you have no idea what you're saying.
  • Listen, ma'am, you have no idea what you're saying. [high register]

comment: Unlike dude in man-to-man speech, the examples above are used in man-to-woman speech, but, do not convey the macho quality of dude, in the sense of dude being used essentially by men of equal rank addressing each other. The examples above are not used in woman-to-woman speech, with perhaps, the exception of missy, in the Southern US.

As far as I know, there is no term that is used as direct address in woman-to-women speech. That's because (and I am going out on a long limb here) women are not in the habit of challenging each other in the way men do.

Yes, of course, one woman could say to another "Look, bitch, [etc.]" but that would only be in a hyper-confrontational scenario that is not one where, in the case of men, dude would be used.

  • these forms of address are used by speakers addressing one other speaker.
  • they are not plural
  • there is no form of address for woman-to-man or woman-to-woman speech using a female-only term and, I repeat, one does not exist since relationships between women are not like relationships between men, as a general rule.

Finally, in the plural, the military uses "ladies" to address troops, either all-male groups of military individuals or mixed groups. This is actually pretty funny, since, in the past, the word "men" would have been used. So, this ends up being a sort of indirect homage to women while also suggesting indirectly that the group of soldiers, etc. being addressed needs to get tougher.

  • Women quite often use the word sister as a form of direct address amongst themselves. ("You've got that right, sister.") – Jason Bassford Jul 18 '18 at 16:21
  • Black English does use sister. I overlooked that. Thank you for reminding me. Or Southern Bible Belt in church. But it is not heard so often outside that dialect. In fact, Professor Cornel West uses it on television all the time and thus is in keeping with the dialect, even when he speaking "standard English". – Lambie Jul 18 '18 at 16:25
  • I also hear it frequently among women of all races when a group of women are addressed. ("Us sisters have to stick together.") Too, there is "You go, girl!" which is used in a positive—albeit exclamatory—sense.) – Jason Bassford Jul 18 '18 at 16:28
  • The use of "You go, girl!" comes from Black English. And, the usage I am explaining is: Look, dude. And no one says: Look, girl, etc. So, there is no parallelism with the structure I am trying to explain. – Lambie Jul 18 '18 at 16:30
  • You are putting far too much emphasis on Black English. It doesn't matter what its origin is. It's used in many places regardless of race. In fact, sister was appropriated by the feminist movement in the sixties and it continues to be used today by all women. – Jason Bassford Jul 18 '18 at 16:33

dude TFD

b. A person of either sex.

My sense:

A word to address all genders that has feminine origins?

There do not appear to be any well accepted. slang dictionary

  • 1
    the question is not about the usage of dude, but about a similar term that was originally used to refer to girls or women. – user 66974 Jul 18 '18 at 14:28

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