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Güey (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈwei]; also spelled guey, wey or we) is a word in colloquial Mexican Spanish which is commonly used to refer to any person without using their name. Though more often, and originally only applied to males, it can be used equally for males and females; although women would more commonly use another slang word to refer to another unnamed female person, such as "chava" (young woman) or "vieja" (old lady). It is used roughly the same way "dude" is used in modern American English. It is derived from the term buey, which refers to an ox, used for meat, sacrifice, or labor. Over time, the initial /b/ underwent a consonant mutation to a /g/, resulting in the modern wey. The word can be used as an insult, like "fool", although, due to its extremely high frequency of use in a multitude of contexts, it has lost much of its offensive character, becoming a colloquialism.
It is common to use both meanings of the term interchangeably:
- To denote stupidity or ignorance, in expressions like "¡Qué güey soy, se me olvidó el celular!" (I'm such an idiot, I forgot my (cell) phone!) Or "¡No seas güey!'" (Don't be an idiot!)
- Cut the word to say "güe"/"we". Like "¡No güe! ¡Estoy en el Celular!" (No dude! I'm on the phone!)
- To refer to the same person you are talking about, like "No güey, no pude ir." (No dude, I couldn't go.)
- To refer to a person whose name is unknown, like "¿Qué no es tu hermano aquél güey de camisa roja?" (Isn't the dude with the red shirt your brother?)
Güey is one of the most commonly misspelled words in Mexican Spanish, because the majority of the time it is used in written communication (mostly in text messaging) without diaeresis as "guey", which is pronounced exactly like "gay" in English; although virtually all speakers tend to ignore this error and would very rarely understand the intended meaning as "homosexual", even though "gay" is a very commonly used loanword.
Although the word is not always offensive nor an insult between friends, its usage is generally considered uneducated. Thus its usage is limited mostly to friends and trusted acquaintances or among young people. It is considered in poor taste for a teenager or a child to refer to an adult as (a) "güey," although among adults it is usually used in a common way. The word is used in any social class, being equally accepted and used in all. It is also used in television and radio in popular entertainment, but not in more formal or objective programs, like in the news.
The exclamation "Ay güey" had been in existence in Mexico since (at least) the 1970s.
- What is Güey in English? - Güey Spanish
- Usual Dictionary (translated in English by google.com)
- Kleinknecht, Friederike (2013). "Mexican güey—from vocative to a discourse marker. A case of grammaticalization". In Barbara Sonnenhauser; Patrizia Noel Aziz Hanna. Vocative. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 235–268. ISBN 978-3-11-030417-6.