“Man” Gender

Comments on today’s LL post have centred on gender neutral “dude” in certain contexts, prompted by this cartoon:

A couple commentators report completely gender neutral “dude” in all contexts. Querying my own intuitions, I find I can use it neutrally in certain contexts but not in others. For instance, in the first case below (call it “vocative”), reproduced from the comic, the “dude” in question can for me be either male or female:

1. Your baking is off the hook, dude.

But in the nominative case, for me it can only refer to a male person:

2. That dude’s baking is off the hook.

Some of the LL commentators find any non-male usage odd. Some have no problem with any non-male usage. I’m in between, but my intuitions are firm on this. Here’s a table of charting these intuitions with “dude” and related terms that function similarly. Notice that singularity/plurality changes things considerably.

VOCNOM
dudeNM
dudesNM or mixed
manNM
menMM
guyXM
guysNN

X= not allowed.

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