Here's A Little History of “Dude” Dudes!
An early usage of ‘dude’ is included in the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang’s citation of the painter Frederick Remington’s response to a correspondent who was sending him sketches:
“Don’t send me any more women or any more dudes.”
Also – in its nineteenth century usage ‘dude’ was used in the term “dude ranch” – as part of a mocking description of sophisticated(?) urban Easterners who liked to imitate an elaborate look and lifestyle in imitation of Western cowboys – but only temporarily while they payed to visit a so-called “dude ranch.”
The wider spread of the word ‘dude’ into popular usage really got moving in the 1960s as both in African American slang and as part of the developing surfer culture. Dude then spread further into the mainstream in the 70s through surfer and skater culture as well as through black novels and television series such as “Sanford and Son” and “Good Times”, and in blaxploitation films like “Blacula.”
- 1889 - Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome refers to dudes: "It is the town of showy hotels, patronized chiefly by dudes and ballet girls."
- used; for example, in the film "Blacula," the title character was referred to as "the big dude."
Jerome K. Jerome’s 1889 Three Men in a Boat has the bodacious description: “It is the town of showy hotels patronized chiefly by dudes and ballet girls.”
1933 brought us the western ‘The Dude Bandit’.
In the 1959’s western ‘Rio Bravo’ Dean Martin plays a character named ‘Dude’ who teams up with John Wayne to defeat the villains. Then in the 1962 film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance Lee Marvin uses ‘dude’ repeatedly especially when talking to Jimmy Stewart’s character.
The 1966 classic surfer film ‘The Endless Summer’ helped popularize the surfer use of ‘dude’
* In the 1969(!!) classic Easy Rider Peter Fonda’s character, Wyatt, described a ‘dude’ as a “nice guy” and “regular sort of person”.
In 1972 the musical world gave us “All the Young Dudes” as written by David Bowie and performed by Mott the Hoople, and T-Rex’s song “Rabbit Fighter” with its line (“I saw a dude unscrewed and badly burned.”)
In ‘73 we saw the release of Galt MacDermot’s musical ‘Dude’, and 1978 saw the release of the surfer movie Big Wednesday (yeah I guess I didn’t know there were surfers back then either.)
The 1980s saw the usage of Dude widely embraced by the mainstream culture – initially through surfer movies and the related skateboard culture and then soon onto the popular animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the recent rebirth of which is likely to have important socio-political ramifications as will be discussed later ... someday...maybe) - ? - mid way through the decade ‘dude’’ safely crossed the gender barrier lines too! -
The 1982 release of the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High was an important step in the widespread acceptance of ‘dude’ – through its thorough usage by the surfer character Spicoli played brilliantly by Sean Penn!
* In 1985 the wholly phrase “No Way Dude!” was first uttered (in a wide media way anyway) in the movie Less Than Zero – in which a young woman character tells her mother “No way dude.” – thus also crossing the gender barrier that has all too often been connected to the usage of ‘dude.’! (the movie’s title ‘Less Than Zero’ was also of course probably connected to the complex esoteric Tarot-related symbology that seems to pervade so many aspects of Keanu’s life and movies – i.e. in this circumstance – it probably was referening to the Tarot Greater Trump card ‘the Fool’ (which often defies definite placement in the order of cards – most often placed at the ‘0’ position at the beginning of the ‘deck’(?) but also often at the end of the major Trumps at position 20(?) – thus ‘Less Than Zero’ cleverly refers to a place below zero but above the last card. - and of course in Keanu’s first widely-critically acclaimed role – in the movie River’s Edge he played the character ‘Matt’ – which is the French (?) name for the fool card – still written on many contemporary decks – as “le Matt(?)” (the fool-?). – etc. - thus this movie (Less than Zero) was placed only one year before the release of the River’s Edge and only slightly before the release of the glorius Excellent Adventure – introducing the mantra of “No Way” in anticipation of its greater presentation that most people instinctively relate it to. – etc. - + it also pro-actively set the usage of ‘No way dude’ in a gender-free context!- …-
In 1987 the band Aerosmith toped the charts with their song “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” (perhaps a subtle reference to when Keanu earlier in life had dressed up in Dolly Parton’s bustiere(?) for Halloween. -? !
1987 also saw the release of the punk western ‘Dudes’
And of course in 1989 an event took place that would forever alter and elevate the status of ‘dude’ in World and Universe history! … On February 17 of that very year, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was released – dramatically introducing the world to the Excellently Righteous Great Ones Ted Theodore Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esquire! – in the mere first 15 minutes Ted used the word “dude” at least 10 times! - and lots more from then on too!
Then on the very next day the first skit of “Wayne’s World” aired on Saturday Night Live … coincidence – I think not! …
Starting in 1989 the Nickelodeon series “Hey Dude” ran for 3 years and took place on a dude ranch.
In 1990 the song “Don’t Call Me Dude” is released by the thrash metal band Scatterbrain.
From 1991 and on, Bryan Adams and his band are listed as the “Dudes of Leisure.”
On Adam Sandler’s 1993 comedy album “They’re All Gonna Laugh at You” the track “Buddy” includes a conversation almost entirely comprised of the words, “Homie”, “Buddy”, and of course “Dude.”
The Less Than Jake song “We’re All Dudes” featured in the 1997 movie Good Burger with its chorus of “I’m a dude, he’s a dude, she’s a dude, we’re all dudes, hey!” (sounds like somebody listened to the Dr. Pepper song a lot in their youth…)
The animated series South Park, and the Backyard Sports series, both also make generous use of the term.
Frequently used as a significant term in a wide variety of fictional series(?) ranging from movies such as 1998’s BASEketball (in which Trey Parker and Matt Stone demonstrate the many subtleties of meaning to be expressed by varying the tone and inflection in the prononciation of ‘dude’), the Cohen brother’s The Big Lebowski which somewhat expanded the range and forms of ‘dude’ via Jeff Bridges character “The Dude (or His Dudeness, Duder, or El Duderino, if the speaker is not into the whole brevity thing)” Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle(2004), 2005’s The Island, - to Michael Moore’s cleverly titled 2003 book Dude, Where’s My Country (titled in reference to the movie Dude, Where’s My Car (2000) – which was actually kinda cool by the way).
- to television series such as the teen drama, Degrassi: the Next Generation(2002), Lost (2004), Supernatural (2005)
- American sociologist Laura Schuft – is nicknamed the DuDe (in 2001).