Monday, November 5, 2007

The original "Guy"

I live in silicon valley and tend to use the word "guy" or "guys" as a genderless reference to someone or a group of someones. "Come on guys let's get behind this" type phases come out of my mouth and my team has become used to them all being guys whether they are actually girls or guys.

But today, since it is November 5th I ended up reflecting on where the term "guy" referring to a man comes from.

Today is Guy Fawkes day. It's a holiday in England, one where you build bonfires, roast chestnuts and set off fire works. As a child you make a "guy" by stuffing old clothes with straw and leaves and then burn the guy on top of the bonfire. Pagan and dark indeed - and the origins of the celebration are dark - but it is the origination of the use of the word to refer to a man.

Guido Fawkes was an original terrorist who, on November 5th 1605 plotted, with a group of co-conspirators, to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Their goal was to bring Catholic rule back to England, after a long period of peaceful Protestant rule under Elizabeth. Fawkes had the job of setting the gunpowder and as a result of a betrayal was revealed to the authorities. He was caught, tortured and hung (but not drawn and quartered because he jumped of the scaffold thus breaking his neck).

He was also the original attempted suicide bomber as he is said to have said he would have "blown him up, house, himself, and all" if he had been able. And it was all about religion and the who's in power as a result of religion. Some things have not changed.

And even more evidence that some things never change... is a posting on Wired today Suicide Bombing Makes Sick Sense in Halo 3 - how and why an editor uses suicide tactics when playing.

How tragic that when we read the news, or even the popular news on Reddit, so little has changed 402 years later.

Update: Subsequent to this post I saw the well written view in harpers.org on the parallels with today's counter terrorism.

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