What’s Up Dude? How This Term Came To Be

What's Up Dude

Hey, what’s up dude? You’ve either heard it or said it at some point in your life. It’s a pretty common word referring to a friend, man, or anyone. Based on how we use the word, we could mean a bunch of different kinds of things. Has that always been the case? While it may have been thought to begin with term for guys, really it can be used for anyone nowadays.

You may not hear people of the older generations use the word quite so much. Even though it is not even remotely a newer term, some people still think of it as a word that stoners used.

But where exactly did the word “dude” come from? Is it really just a newer term for a guy? When someone says “dude” to you, how would you respond?

An Evolved Word

While we might think dude as being a more modern word, it really isn’t. Scholars can trace the origin of the word “dude” back to the 19th century. People used to use it to make fun of young men who were pretty fashionable.

After that, it sort of turned into someone who lived in the city and knew nothing about living in the country. And from there, somehow, it moved on to being used for a chill kind of guy. Part of the “chillness” that comes with dude, is the relation to stoners.

The Surprise Origin

Then we have to ask, where exactly the word came from. People were using it a couple centuries ago, so it had to have started from somewhere, right?

Current evidence says that the word dude actually comes as a shorter version of doodle. If you think of the song Yankee Doodle dandy, the dude is from the doodle part. Dandies were English men who were a bit fancy. But Yankees, as in Americans, did not have the same access to high fashion, so like Yankee Doodle. They had to do different things to dress fancier.

How They Became Fashionable without This Access

Since American colonists didn’t have the access to European fashions like the English men did, they had to do some other more creative things to emit fashion. One away was to stick a feather on their hats.

However, to everyone else, sticking a feather in your hat and pretending to be fancy left you open to be mocked. This is how guys pretending to be fancy were made fun of instead and the term for that was dude.

The 19th Century Definition

The word “dude” actually appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary. They called it a name used to make fun of a man who is being overly self-centered about his appearance. Pretty much in the areas of how to dress talk and carry themselves, leaving them open for mockery.

It would make sense that it went from making fun of fancy to making fun of city folk. The idea of country versus city has been ongoing for as long as there has been time. To country people, city people seem more vain and involved in their appearances. So dude jumped the border and the definition grew.

Dude Ranch

Chances are you have ever heard of a dude ranch. Dude ranches were meant to be a way to get guys from the city out into the country to let them have more experience with country life. So the ranches were a sort of escape for city dwellers to attempt to get their hands dirty as if they were cowboys. Since the word dude meant guys from the city, then dude ranches were ranches designed for city guys.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Dudes modern peak happened because of dude heavy movies that came out in the 1980s and 1990s. If you think about the pizza eating nun chuck twirling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they use the word dude a lot. And that wasn’t the only movie. Watch Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and we think you’ll find a lot of the dialogue has the word dude it.

It was really the sudden increase of the word in movies that brought the word dude back and made it more mainstream. After it became better known, it didn’t have the same bad association with it.

Kind of like Chinese

What makes dude such a funny word is that it is a multi-use word. Just like how in Chinese how you say a sound, it can mean a lot of different things. In Chinese, for example, I could see the word Ma, and it can mean several different words just depending on where I put the emphasis of the word.

With dude, it’s the exact same thing. Depending on how I say the word, whether I put the inflection on the beginning, middle, or the end of the word, it means a whole lot of different things. Additionally, the amount of feeling you put into saying the word can make the word mean different things.

Does Dude Mean the Same thing as “Guy”?

In the same realm of the word “dude,” is the word “guy.” Guy, which actually refers to Guy Fawkes, known conspirator against England in the 17th century, became a term to refer to a man in general. But much like dude, it went from mostly being used for men to becoming a gender-neutral term. The word guy though has a little more confusion. While it can be a gender-neutral word, a group of women don’t usually get referred to as a group of guys. But a group of people with at least one guy, no matter how many women are in the group, can be referred to as a group of guys.