The results of the Dude/Bro questionaire

by LP

Since I’ve got my results back from the linguistics class I did the questionaire for, I can now freely explain what that questionaire (and the rest of my research) was all about.

The class focussed mostly on sociolinguistics and for our project we were instructed to recreate a part of one of the studies we studied and discussed, after which we were supposed to compare our data to the original study. I chose Kiesling’s “Dude” study, which focussed on, and this is the original abstract of the article:

The patterns of use for the address term dude are outlined, as are its functions and meanings in interaction. Explanations are provided for its rise in use, particularly among young men, in the early 1980s, and for its continued popularity since then. Dude is used mostly by young men to address other young men; however, its use has expanded so that it is now used as a general address term for a group (same or mixed gender), and by and to women. Dude is developing into a discourse marker that need not identify an addressee, and more generally encodes the speaker’s stance to his or her current addressee(s). Dude indexes a stance of cool solidarity, a stance which is especially valuable for young men as they navigate cultural Discourses of young masculinity, which simultaneously demand masculine solidarity, strict heterosexuality, and nonconformity.

That sounds like a lot and it is a lot, so I chose to focus on two things:

1) a slightly modified version of Kiesling’s questionaire. I tested for “dude” and “bro”, where he tested for “dude” and “babe” and, since I assumed I would have quite a bit of non-L1 English speakers who responded, changed one of the questions from “Where did you go to high school?” to “How often do you speak English?”. I wanted to see if in the last 10 – 15 years, people’s attitudes towards both the word “dude” and “dude-sayers” had changed;


2) I analysed the usage of “dude” in two teen movies (“Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”) that he also mentioned in his article, but only in a general sense e.g. “The lead character is a typical dude-sayer”. I was curious what characters used the word, how often and whom they addressed;

To not make this blogpost as long as the paper I wrote, my results in short: there was indeed a slight change in how people saw the term “dude”, it seems to be less marked, people considered it something “everybody” (so also non-males amongst eachother or to males) says and didn’t have as many preconceived notions about “dude”-users. Sure, the stereotypes of “surfer dude, not too smart stoner guy” were mentioned, but the participants specifically mentioned that they considered these clichΓ©s. Despite this change, there was no difference in the type of addressee: both in Kiesling’s research and in mine it was obvious that people only refer to their peers as “dude”. Parents, teachers and other authority figures are obviously not dudes.

This was also the conclusion from the movie data I analysed: despite the word only being used 6 times in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, all instances were in peer contact. The same goes for extreme dude-sayers Bill and Ted, who use the word 70 times during the movie, but never to address their parents or teachers.

Of course my paper also touched lightly (due to time and word count constraints) on how “dude” being a way for heterosexuaaaaall young men to be close to each other “no homo”-style (all together now: yes homo!) comes with a not-so-nice side of casual homophobia (evident in both movies), and how the fact that one of my gay male respondents reported to refer to his boyfriend as “dude” could hopefully be interpreted a change in the right direction, though of course more research would be necessary to determine if this is the case or not.

I would like to thank everybody who participated in the survey, I literally couldn’t have done it without you! For those who like questionaires: there is probably (depending on if my thesis research proposal gets accepted in its current form) a new questionaire coming up soon-ish. I will keep you all posted.