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Had you said What a guy in 17th-century England, anyone would have understood you were admiring a flaming effigy of Guy Fawkes of the Gunpowder Treason Plot. How times have changed In America and, indeed, most of the English-speaking world, guy is so embedded in daily speech that we scarcely notice how odd it truly is: a singular guy referring to males only, a plural guys encompassing the entire human race. The journey from England's greatest villain to America's favorite second-person plural pronoun offers a story rich with surprising and unprecedented turns. Through his trademark breezy, highly readable style, acclaimed writer Allan Metcalf takes us deep into this history, uncovering the intrigue, murderous plots, and torture out of which the word emerged in 1605. From there, it's a thrilling run through 17th-century England, bloody religious controversies, and across the Atlantic to America, where the word took on a life of its own, exploding into popular culture and day-to-day conversation. From the disappearance of thou, to George Washington and the American Revolution, to the modern revival of Guy Fawkes in V for Vendetta, Metcalf explores the improbable history of a simple word so indispensable to our daily lives, and that evokes deep insights into the evolution of English itself.
About the Author
Allan Metcalf is Professor of English at MacMurray College, former executive secretary of the American Dialect Society, a forensic linguist, and author of OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word (Oxford University Press, 2012) as well as six other books on language.