Translations to English

WORD MATTERS – The history behind the words

TODAY’S WORD IS “GUY” – THINK GUY FAWKES NIGHT

Personally, I thought the word “guy” was the American equal of the British word “bloke”.

However, it appears to have taken its origins from Guy Fawkes night. At first, it meant the effigy of Guy Fawkes traditionally burnt on the bonfire. I don’t think many people do this now, though I am sure you will correct me if I am wrong, but as children we would make a human figure by stuffing clothes, stick it in a wheelbarrow and pretend it was a person, then go round and pester our neighbours, asking for a “penny for the guy”. When you analyse it in later life, it does seem a bit macabre, to say the least!!

After the defeat of the gunpowder plot on the 5th of November 1605, Parliament approved a new holiday on the 5th of November with religious services and bonfires where people would burn effigies of enemies of the time, including Guy Fawkes (the Pope was apparently also a candidate!) Anyway, soon the word “guy” started to be used here in Britain, first referring to ugly or depraved men, then to men in general. By the mid-20th century, the word was being used in its plural, “you guys” to address a group of people. It seemed to be particularly useful to refer to a plural of “you” when the context was unclear as to whether the text referred to one or many people. A verb was also made from it, “to guy”, which meant to ridicule or make fun of someone.

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Stay tuned for our next blog post coming next week!

Rachel

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