Jul 16th 2013

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The origins of the word “Dude”

The word “Dude” conjures up scenes from The Big Lebowski where Jeff Bridges’ character “the dude” would talk about himself in the third person using catchphrases such as “the dude obliges, his dudeness and more”

By the time that The Big Lebowski hit theatres in 1998, the word “dude” had already been in use for over 100 years.

From the late 1800’s to the 1960’s “dude” was used as a synonym for the word “dandy,” a male who dressed at the cutting edge of fashion and who cared deeply about their appearance.

In the 1960’s, “dude” slipped into mainstream American vocabulary to refer to a companion and in the 1970’s “dude” made it into surfer culture as a way of informally greeting someone: “hey dude, what’s up.

“Dude” is usually gender neutral, however there is a female version, “dudette,” which is used much less often.

“Dude” first appeared in popular culture in 1883 in reference to a lavishly dressed President Chester A. Arthur, with the caption, “According to your cloth you’ve cut your coat, O Dude of all the White House residents; We trust that will help you with the vote, When next we go nominating Presidents.”

Aside from The Big Lebowski, recent examples of “dude” in showbiz include the famous “duuuuuude” Budweiser campaign, and the early 2000’s comedy with Ashton Kutcher Dude Where’s My Car.

One of the origins of “dude” is suspected to be from the Scottish word for clothes: “duddies.”

Some scholars, however, believe that “dude” actually comes from the Swahili word “dude” (plural “madude”). The literal translation of “dude” in Swahili is “a thing of which you don’t know or have forgotten the name.” The locals in Central Africa in the late 19th Century would use “dude” to refer to the Christian missionaries.

Wherever the word “dude” came from, it has permeated popular culture. What movies have you seen that prominently feature the word “dude?”

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One Response to “The origins of the word “Dude””

  1. EEMI on July 22nd, 2013

    Hahah, really nice post ! Thanks a lot for the explantation !


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