“Hey, Dude! Where’d That Word Come From?”

dudeHey, Dude, don’t make it bad.
Take a sad song and make it better . . .

If you recognized those as the first words of a popular Beatles song, then you likely spotted the error. John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote  Hey Jude to comfort Lennon’s young son, Julian, during Lennon’s divorce from Julian’s mother, Cynthia—ancient history! Had they written Hey Jude today, they might have called it “Hey Dude!”

The word “dude” pops up everywhere these days.

In America, it first became popular in the 19th century when it described fashion-conscious men who dressed and acted like wealthy Europeans.

“Hey, look at that dude!”

EKD_18th Century Fashion Plate 108From the New-York Mirror of February 24, 1883:

“. . . a new and valuable addition has been made to the slang vocabulary. … We refer to the term “Dood.” For a correct definition of the expression the anxious inquirer has only to turn to the tight-trousered, brief-coated, eye-glassed, fancy-vested, sharp-toes shod, vapid youth who abounds in the Metropolis at present. …

As the American West evolved and Easterners, “city slickers”, moved west, the word “dude” described a man from the city, clueless about country life.

By the early 20th century, former dudes saw a business opportunity providing vacationing dudes from the East with a country/cowboy experience, and the term “dude ranch” was born.

Fast-forward through the first half of the 20th century to the early 1960s, and you’ll find the word attributed to someone carefree and laid back. “Surfer dudes” hung out all day at beaches working on their tans and riding the waves.

florida_surfer_dude_m


This casual, laid back image of a “dude” persisted throughout the 20th century, mostly used by guys to greet and refer to each other in an informal way.

Then in the 21st century, the word came full circle and regained the same level of popularity it had in the early 1800s. Today everyone uses it, men, women, kids . . .

Dude. Dude? Dude!!!

What does it mean?
Is it a statement? A question? An exclamation?
You decide.

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Filed under fun with words, Uncategorized, word origins, words

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