The world ‘dude’ is so ingrained in the global consciousness that it transcends cultural boundaries with the same ease that it slopes off the tongue.
Jeff Bridges (The Dude- far left), John Goodman and Steve Buscemi (rear in picture) in The Big Lebowski
Thanks to its widespread use in blockbuster film and TV shows its positive meaning – as a man or woman of character – is known, appreciated and understood around the world. In fact, it could be argued, referring to someone as a dude is up there with the handshake when it comes to universally understood interactions.
What comes as a surprise, however, is that its roots can be traced to the Scottish word ‘duddies’. ‘Duddies’ refer to ragged or tattered clothes and originated from Ayrshire. How the word evolved from a negative word to a positive is unclear but immigration and cultural changes will have played their part.
It should be noted that ‘duds’, which also originated from the word ‘duddies’, is a popular term for clothes and no longer carries any negative connotations.
The first use of the word dude in print came in 1876 when Putnam’s Magazine used it to mock how a woman was dressed (as a “dud”/dude).
From the 1880s onwards it was used by rural dwellers in the US to refer to their visiting smartly dressed city counterparts.
Dude was also used to describe the 19th century American pioneers who helped the country expand westwards.
In the 1960s, dude had been adopted by the surfing community where the phrase “dudette”, to refer to a woman, also appeared.
By the 1970s it had slipped in mainstream American slang and with the help of Hollywood quickly spread around the globe.
The “Day of the Dude” is held each year on March 6 to mark the anniversary of the 1998 release of cult film The Big Lebowski.
Fans use the day to celebrate the philosophy of the movie’s protagonist, played by Jeff Bridges. Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski’s philosophy of easy living.
By Stephen Emerson