Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Dude

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 3, 2016

A dude is both a person, and a font.  As a font, it’s described as a reverse contrast cowboy font.  The creator of the font, Philadelphia artist Dan Gneiding describes the font this way.

IMAGE 1_DUDE

When Jeff Bridges took on the lead role in the movie, “The Big Lebowski” he made the concept of being a dude popular among certain types.  His character was known as Jeff ‘The Dude‘ Letrotski  aka Jeffrey Lebowski aka Lebowski Pony.  The imdb.com site states that the premise of the movie is this: “The Dude” Lebowski, mistaken for a millionaire Lebowski, seeks restitution for his ruined rug and enlists his bowling buddies to help get it.

At one point in the movie, Jeff Bridges’s character says:

Let me explain something to you. Um, I am not “Mr. Lebowski”. You’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

Not long after the movie’s release, a new religion (of sorts) was born: Dudeism.  The religion (of sorts) embraces the old meaning of the word insofar as it advocates living the easy life without effort or ambition.  In other words — slackers.

Back on August 26, television station WBAL-TV 11 in Baltimore reported on an incident where a city police officer garnered national attention when video recorded in 2007 was posted to YouTube by a teen involved in an altercation with the officer.  The officer was fired based on the content of the video, and the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police was upset over the officer’s firing.

According to the television report, this officer was upset at the teen’s repeated disrespect towards him and his disregard of a lawful order given to him by a police officer.

In the video, the boy said he did not hear an order that the officer gave him about skateboarding at the Harbor. Rivieri repeatedly got upset at being called “dude” in the video.

“I’m not ‘man.’ I’m not ‘dude,’ I am Officer Rivieri,” he told the teen. “The sooner you learn that, the longer you are going to live in this world. Because you go around doing this kind of stuff and somebody is going to kill you.”

Over the decades, the word has been used in songs such as Mott the Hoople’s “All The Young Dudes,” Steely Dan’s “Any Major Dude Will Tell You,” and Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like A Lady.”  It’s been used in movies such as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (be excellent to each other and party on, dudes!) and Back To The Future III (where Bad Dog Tannen insults Marty McFly by repeatedly referring to him as dude).

In the book “The Faith Doctor: A Story of New York” written by American historian and novelist, Edward Eggleston (10 December 1837 – 3 September 1902) and published in 1891, an accurate description is provided at the beginning of the books, in the first chapter titled, “The Origin Of A Man Of Fashion.”

It was the opinion of a good many people that Charles Millard was “something of a dude.”  But such terms are merely relative; every fairly dressed man is a dude to somebody.  There are communities in this free land of ours in which the wearing of a coat at dinner is a most disreputable mark of dudism.

Even Mark Twain thought the term was worthy of inclusion in his book “A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court” which he published in 1889.

It seems to show that there isn’t anything you can’t stand, if you are only born and bred to it. Of course that taint, that reverence for rank and title, had been in our American blood, too – I know that; but when I left America it had disappeared – at least to all intents and purposes. The remnant of it was restricted to the dudes and dudesses.

Of course, back in the 1880s, the term dude was very well-known and well-used by authors.  There were all kinds of books with the word in the title, from “Dude of the Diggings” to “The Dude, The Dunce, And The Daisy” and all the way on to “I’m A Dandy, But I’m No Dude.”  There was no shortage of short stories and novels that found a reason to toss the word dude into the tale’s title.

New York Socialite (and later American expatriate in France) Evander Berry Wall (1860 – 13 May 1940) was known as the “King of the Dudes” rising to the top spot at a time when it was understood that there was a ‘Battle of the Dudes‘ doing on.  In this battle, men tried to outdo each other with their fancy clothes in the hopes of being crowned the artistic and beautiful ideal of masculine fashion in New York City.

The term become very common, so much so, that in 1883 a political cartoon by Chester A. Arthur featured the President with the caption beneath that read:

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.

According to American children’s writer (and author of Hans Brinker published in 1865) Mary Mapes Dodge (26 January 1831 – 21 August 1905), the word dude was understood in every day conversations as early as 1873, and was first published in Putnam’s magazine in February 1876.

Idiomation was unable to trace the term to before the date provided by Mary Mapes Dodge.  As a side note, Idiomation *did* learn that the Middle English word Dudde referred to cloak, mantle, or sackcloth, and oftentimes dudery was used to refer to sellers of second-hand clothes.

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