The female equivalent of dude.

The "-ette" suffix comes from the French, and while its use to indicate a diminutive form (cigarette, kitchenette, dinette) is and always has been common, its use to indicate merely the female equivalent of a male term is fairly modern (suffragette being one of its earliest incarnations.)

One of the lasting criticisms of this type of neologism is that it intrinsically devalues the female form as compared to the male form through etymology: first through its origination as a suffix indicating the diminutive, and secondly through implying that, as it is the extended form, that the male form is the original and thus more acceptable of the two.

Consider also the irony that the term "dude" for a man originates as an insult by women: a dude was an urban dandy (usually an Easterner) who visited the then-Wild West and tried to appropriate its tougher customs, often with laughable results. When these men visited the prostitutes of the area, they were termed "dudes" as a sort of in-joke (a "dude" is a literal saddle sore, the blisters a novice horse rider receives before developing a callus.)

Of course, dudette wasn't derived until the surfer/stoner era appropriated the term "dude" and became just another way of saying "girl." As that era has more or less come to pass, dudette has all but disappeared from the lexicon. It can mostly be found these days flowing from the mouths of aging surfers cum radio deejays and occasionally very unhip parents.

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