The Life of Guy: Guy Fawkes, the Gunpowder Plot, and the Unlikely History of an Indispensable Word

ISBN : 9780190669201

Allan Metcalf
176 ページ
127 x 127 mm

Had you said "What a guy!" in 17th-century England, anyone would have understood you were admiring a flaming effigy of Guy Fawkes of the Gunpowder Treason Plot. How times have changed! In America and, indeed, most of the English-speaking world, "guy" is so embedded in daily speech that we scarcely notice how odd it truly is: a singular "guy" referring to males only, a plural "guys" encompassing the entire human race. The journey from England's greatest villain to America's favorite second-person plural pronoun offers a story rich with surprising and unprecedented turns. Through his trademark breezy, highly readable style, acclaimed writer Allan Metcalf takes us deep into this history, uncovering the intrigue, murderous plots, and torture out of which the word emerged in 1605. From there, it's a thrilling run through 17th-century England, bloody religious controversies, and across the Atlantic to America, where the word took on a life of its own, exploding into popular culture and day-to-day conversation. From the disappearance of " to George Washington and the American Revolution, to the modern revival of Guy Fawkes in V for Vendetta, Metcalf explores the improbable history of a simple word so indispensable to our daily lives, and that evokes deep insights into the evolution of English itself.


Chapter 1: The Miracle
Chapter 2: Religion Gets a Divorce
Chapter 3: Guy Fawkes
Chapter 4: The Trial and Execution of Guy Fawkes
Chapter 5: First Bonfire Days
Chapter 6: Gunpowder Days in England: The Pope and the Guy
Chapter 7: Pope Night in America: Deconstructing Guy in the New World
Chapter 8: Thou art gone, except in Quaker prayer, leaving gap in second person pronoun.
Chapter 9: You Guys
Chapter 10: Villain Becomes Hero: The Modern Guy Fawkes
Chapter 11: Present Day
Chapter 12: The Future of Guys


Allan Metcalf is Professor of English at MacMurray College, former executive secretary of the American Dialect Society, a forensic linguist, and author of OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word (Oxford University Press, 2012) as well as six other books on language.