Rick's List — Dude Edition

I caught myself saying the word "dude"again the other day, and it occurred to me that I've spent entirely too much time in my life saying the word "dude."

As I type this, I'm sure there's some — wait for it — dude right now in a computer science lab at Berkeley or Stanford working on an app that, when downloaded on your phone, and based on an algorithm that analyzes phonetics and voice-box oscillations, can quantify how many times a person says a certain word. Sort of a linguistic pedometer.

And it won't be long before, routinely, one of those annoying pop-ups will send a vital alert: "You said 'dude' 63 times in the past week, down 4.7 percent." Those amongst us who endeavor for continual self-improvement will digest this data and think, "Memo to self: Say 'dude' more next week and let's get those stats back up!"

But why "dude"?

Younger folks believe the word skyrocketed to popularity through a film stoners regard as sacred, "The Big Lebowski," starring Jeff Bridges at The Dude. And, yes, the film's permanence in our culture has only calcified "dude" as THE term of comradely affection and good will. Even women occasionally and familiarly refer to one another as "dude," which cannot be said about the similarly popular "brother" and its "bro," "brah" and "bruh" offshoots.

Well, surfers long used "dude" before "Lebowski," and they probably appropriated it from ranchers and cowboy types who alluded to "dudes" way back in the 1800s. But that's etymology. I want to figure out why the sound and context of the word "dude" resonates so pleasingly and in such rich fashion. The answer? I don't know.

OK, then, is anyone else reluctantly weary of "dude"? I say reluctantly because, dammit, it feels GREAT to say "dude," and perhaps I should leave well enough alone and just roll with it. Fair enough. But I DO want us to at least have options. Even if we don't ever completely eradicate "dude" (or even "bro") from the lexicon, we can become comfortable with other possibilities. Easing these others into our conversations can keep "dude" fresh and even, by comparison, remind us that "dude" was the best sounding choice all along.

The next time you catch yourself about to say "dude," try one of these out:

1. Chum — The Hardy Boys used it with great charm

2. Pally — If it's good enough for Frank and Dino and Sammy...

3. Hotshot — Do not confuse with the black ops phrase for assassination by intravenous injection

4. Rat-daddy — Some occasions require sophistication

5. Sir Llewellyn Crispin-Sparhawk — Just rolls off the tongue

6. Oaf — Not a proper synonym in this context, but it's just a wonderful sounding word unto itself


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