Dude: A Definition

We Are 40
We Are 40
May 10, 2017 · 2 min read

By Summer Lopez

My 5 year-old asked me what dude means. I’ve dreaded this moment ever since my Californiagirlspeak tumbled out of his mouth as a toddler.

This question, unlike others concerned with reincarnation as a kitten and what is that girl in a Beastie Boys video doing, gave me pause. (There was no easy answer, like questions of yore: “Mama, am I a feminist?”)

The usage and context of dude are purely inflectional and make zero sense:

“DUDE.” I have something I totally need to tell you right now.
“Those dudes” Don’t know these guys but I’m calling em out.
“I rocked that, Dude.” Buy me a beer because you’re my dude.
“Dooooooo-de” Bummer, man.
“Totally, dude.” I get it.
“Sup Dude.” I’m cool enough to say this over and over.
“Dude that sucks.” I am down to Happy Hour.
“Dude! What’s up with that?”
Seriously? That did not just happen.
“Dude, I’m all” I know your name but we’re close so you’re just dude to me.
“THAT Dude!” I am hating on you, THAT Dude.
“THIS Dude!” I am loving you, THIS Dude.
“So dude…” Initiating an epic conversation that doesn’t include anyone.

Now I can’t not think of every use of dude I’ve heard or said since always. Damn this tangle of our native tongue so aptly called by linguists: Dumb AF. Instead we have popular representations to locate this expression that is somehow a pronoun, noun, declaration and exclamation. And a royal title. And someday, perhaps, ice cream?

After a week’s thought I tell my kid: “You know, dude was an old-school surfer/skater thing that kind of happened in the 80s but nobody still says it. It’s not a smart word. Okay?” Kid says, “Okay, dude.”

Good talk.

Summer Lopez is a writer living in California. Politics, entertainment, and memoir are equal parts her subject matter. She also publishes We Are 40, a zine for Generation X, and Lost in a Book, a kid lit review.

WE ARE 40

We were Slackers. We were Hipsters.

We Are 40

Written by

We Are 40

Published by Summer Lopez

WE ARE 40

WE ARE 40

We were Slackers. We were Hipsters.