Here’s The History Of The Word “Dude”

In an article for BBC, Kelly Grovier explored the origins of words that were coined in art history. Some words include “silhouette”, “picturesque”, and surprisingly, “dude”.  What initially was associated with Jeff Bridge’s portrayal of The Dude in the 1998 film The Big Lebowski had actually entered popular discourse in the early 1880s as a shorthand for the male followers of the Aesthetic Movement. Grovier detailed the surprising history of “dude”:

 For the past 20 years, Jeff Bridge’s portrayal of The Dude in the Coen Brothers’ film The Big Lebowski (1998) has epitomised the seductive spirit of dudeness. Dishevelled, stoned and disorientated, The Dude’s laid-back attitude is difficult to square with the artsy origin of the word itself, which seems to have entered popular discourse in the early 1880s as shorthand for foppishly turned-out male followers of the Aesthetic Movement – a short-lived artistic vogue that championed superficial fashion and decadent beauty (‘art for art’s sake’) and was associated with ostentatiously-attired artists such as James McNeill Whistler and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
It’s thought that ‘dude’ is an abbreviation of ‘Doodle’ in ‘Yankee Doodle’, and probably refers to the new-fangled ‘dandy’ that the song describes. Originally sung in the late 18th Century by British soldiers keen to lampoon the American colonists with whom they were at war, the ditty, by the end of the 19th Century, had been embraced in the US as a patriotic anthem.

Add that to new things you can share as a conversation starter. That’s something you don’t learn everyday! 

image credit: via wikimedia commons

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Even older than that:
Today, “dude” means something like “bro”. But in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the word had a different slang meaning. Back then, a “dude” was an urbanite. It’s what western cattle ranchers, a.k.a. cowboys, called big-shot city slickers.
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"Dude" FAR predated Lebowski as a way to refer to someone or a group of someones in the American vernacular. It's absurd to attribute it to that was used by surfers in the 60's to refer to a "guy" or "fella", and morphed from there to refer to anyone, as well as being used as an exclamation like "wow" or "hey".
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I'm not sure about the above etymology goes far enough to explain that it was used in the West to describe easterners on vacations in the West and became a part of Western American English a derogatory term. Now the bigger question was when did it transform to be less of an insult and more of a positive moniker or a gender neutral way to refer to a person? (I know quite a few Californians who will refer to anyone by the term dude or mixed group of people as dudes so it is not just a masculine term)
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