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.
The Life of Guy is the story of attempted regime change leading to language change, as Allan Metcalf puts it pithily. It starts with a riveting history of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot that almost destroyed the monarchy and Parliament of England. It ends with guy's evolution into arguably one of the most important words in the English language-a subject pronoun. Along the way, we learn about strange British traditions like burning the Guy, how English lost thou, its informal, intimate way to say you, and how you guys, y'all, and yinz are battling for second-person plural supremacy. A great read! --Melissa Mohr, author of Holy Sh*t A fascinating story-an intriguing blend of history and linguistics. --David Crystal, University of Wales, Bangor, and author of Making Sense and The Story of Be It all began with a guy named Guy--Guy Fawkes--who, among other Roman Catholic provocateurs, attempted to blow up the House of Lords, while the Protestant king, James I, was in the House, when Parliament opened on November 5, 1605. So, the story of guy begins. Allan Metcalf, with characteristic expertise, clarity, and wit, starts there and tells guy's incredible story. I liked it and learned a lot from it. I think you guys will, too. --Michael Adams, Indiana University, and author of Slayer Slang and In Praise of Profanity Did you ever wonder why 'guys' means just about anyone as long as there's more than one? As Allan Metcalf writes, language change is miraculous . This book cracks open the mystery of why and how. You guys will have the most interesting cocktail party conversation going with this story! --Sali A. Tagliamonte, University of Toronto