Guys, Guv, & Luv

— 3 minute read

A little ramble on habits of speech. Just in case this helps anybody else.

"Guys" is not a word I had much of a problem removing from my day-to-day language. I've been a friends/folks/peeps type person since the ‘90s when somebody first said "Hey — maybe stop saying that because…" to me. Yeah, I still slip up occasionally. But mostly it's gone from my vocabulary.

(If you're the sort of person who thinks this kind of change is dumb, then this isn't the article for you — go read this or this instead :-)

The one I have had problems with was "Cheers guv/luv" — the generic sign off / acknowledgement to stranger-you-want-to-be-polite-to that I've been using basically forever.

Because "governor" as a term of address is definitely gendered male in the UK — and "love" is very much a word I don't want in my general vocabulary for addressing strange women. Especially since "guv" comes across as respectful, and "luv"… does not.

(Yes, I am aware there are regions in the UK where "love" is a gender neutral form of address applied to men and women. I didn't grow up in any of those places. It's a small chunk of the UK so most folk don't have that background. It's used in a different context — more like "friend". Also, even in that region, they mostly don't us it anymore either coz languages change. It's not an excuse for me to keep using it. Hush now :-)


Despite 30 odd years of understanding that it was a dumb and silly thing to say "Cheers luv" still fell out of my mouth on occasion. Often enough for me to feel pretty darn stupid. Especially since I was often saying it in service industry contexts where folk generally don't have the privilege to call me on my shit.

My old theory on why I sucked at not saying it was that had just been in my vocabulary longer. An older habit. It also rhymes — "Cheers Guv/Cheers Luv". Just rolled off the tongue. That was my theory.

I fixed it a few months ago.

After 30 odd years.

This is going to sound stupidly obvious.

I realised that I was still saying "Cheers guv" to men, and trying to say something different to women.

So I just started saying "Cheers boss!" to everybody.

Boom. Problem solved.

Still a term from my youth. Respectful. Easy to remember. Works for everybody.

Then I realised how dumb I'd been. Because this was exactly what I did for "guys". I didn't keep saying "guys" if the group was all male-only and use "folks" with mixed groups. I just stopped saying "guys". I always used other words. For everybody.

Foolishly obvious in hindsight.

Now I’m wondering if that's why some folk have problems swapping "guys" out of their vocabulary. Are they trying to keep it for male-only contexts, and only use gender neutral terms elsewhere?


Anyway. Hope that’ll be useful to somebody.