Metro-East Living

When you speak to one of your colleagues, don’t call them ‘dude’

Q: We have a new colleague in our office and he often uses the word, “Dude” when speaking to some of us, male and female, and often refers to clients as “Dudes.” I am told by some of my other colleagues that this is one of the terms used a lot by millennials and I should not to be offended. As a female, I guess I am just not ready to be called, “Dude.” Am I totally off base?

A: No, you are not “totally off base.” Whether some of my readers think I am old-fashioned, or not, in upholding basic etiquette rules dating back hundreds of years, this type of “familiarity” is totally inappropriate, especially in an office setting.

Furthermore, I believe your colleague is being disrespectful when referring to you as “Dude,” to anyone else in your office, and especially clients. Rue the day (at least I would hope) when he accidentally slips and calls one of your company’s clients, “Dude,” when speaking to them in person or on the phone, and I would predict it is going to happen.

Background or history of the word:

Although the use of the word has once again become more frequently heard, we cannot assign the blame on its misuse to the “millennials.” Actually, this word has been used with various meanings since the mid-1500s. At that time, it was a Scottish term, “dudde,” used to refer to clothing.

In the mid-1800s, the word was used to mock a woman who dressed like a dude because in that era, the word was normally used when referring to an extremely well-dressed gentleman. Therefore, it was disrespectfully used to indicate a female was dressing like a man rather than a female. In the late-1800s it was used when referring to high-society young men who had a lot of leisure time and who liked to show off their wardrobes in the social scene of New York, for instance.

Over the years, it has been used with yet other meanings. For example, it was adapted by the Spanish in the phrase: “lo dudo” which meant doubtful. Cowboys used the word negatively when referring to city people as “dudes.” And in a magazine published in 1883, it was used to describe “an ill-bred and ignorant, but ostentatious, man from the city,” or later referred to as “a city slicker.” In the 1950s, Americans used the word with tourists who apparently tried to dress like the locals.

The derivatives, “Dudette” or “Dudess” were created in the 1950s by the young surfer culture enthusiasts. By the 1970s, it became “Dude” to refer to both sexes, and it then started being used as a substitute for titles or first names.

American films in the 1980s and 1990s used the word with two meanings: one as a “cool person” and one as a “lazy deadbeat.”

In my opinion, I refer to Rule Number 39 (of 110) in George Washington’s book: Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior In Company and Conversation, which he wrote when he was 14 in 1746, which reads: “In writing or speaking give every person his due title according to his degree and the custom of the place.”

Yes, this etiquette rule still applies, especially in the work place which means calling someone “Dude” or referring to someone as “Dude” is inappropriate. Having said that, sweethearts or close friend(s) agree to or want to refer to each other as “Dude” outside the work place, so be it. I, for one, prefer to have people use my first name or title when speaking to me.

Note to readers

I always like to hear from my readers regarding your opinions concerning the questions and answers I provide in my column. I assure you, I do “listen” to you. For example, with regard to a reader’s comment pertaining to glasses and sunglasses etiquette in last week’s column, yes, I should have added: An exception to removing sunglasses when in a conversation with another person, whether indoors or outdoors, is when there is a medical reason for not removing them. It would be appropriate, however, to say: “I hope you don’t mind if I don’t remove my sunglasses. I have a medical condition and should not remove them.”

As to whether you prefer to wear your glasses, or sunglasses on your head, or feel it is cool when movie stars and other famous people, wear their sunglasses on their head, that’s your choice and your personal opinion. I appreciate individual opinions; however, that does not mean I will change my professional opinion regarding what is appropriate and what is not.

As to the reader who provided these comments: “Get a life! Your etiquette is archaic on the subject! I am a ......retired business woman who’s been around a bit. Who cares?????? ......... 21st century and life has loosened up. Circumstances and common sense dictate, but not all those silly rules.”

My response: Yes, I am sorry to say, the manner in which you provided your opinions to me is definitely an example of how manners and respect in the 21st century have slipped. In my opinion, this lack of respect is also an example of why the civility in our country continues to dangerously deteriorate. Following basic etiquette rules built our great country. Throwing them to the curb is destroying it.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Dianne Isbell at Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to