Last night, I helped out a company called CVSDude with some UX stuff. An interesting question came up: What does “Dude” mean in the United States? Words have enormous power to frame what something is or isn’t. To evoke imagery or emotions, words are often the most overlooked part of the user experience.
Here is a brief summary of my view on the word Dude:
- A hundred years ago it meant a man who was dressed in a fancy sort of way.
- In the early 80’s (when I grew up), it was a surfer term meaning Fellow Traveller or Friend. Usually masculine.
- In 1989, Keanu Reeves changed the texture of the term in the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Dude became synonymous with someone stoned or dumb. It meant anything you wanted it to mean with the right inflection. Dude? Dude! Dude. Still masculine. (All we are is Dust in the Wind, Dude)
- In the 90’s it went more mainstream. It was used by normal people trying to be more counter-culture. In other words, it was synonymous with “Hey”. Less masculine.
- In the last 10 years, it seems to have lost alot of its cultural underpinnings. If someone uses the term, I think of it as a throwback. Like someone saying, “Radical” or “Trippy”. It’s not that uncommon, but it has a stale feel to it.
Words. It’s what truly separate us from animals. Without words, we are still living in a tree.