Boy (or man), as an interjection

What’s the origin of using “boy” or “man” as an interjection? When someone says “boy, am I tired” or “man, is it hot outside” is the boy or man supposed to be the person the statement is addressed to? You never hear anyone say “girl, the traffic on the interstate was murder” unless they’re actually addressing somebody they are calling girl but boy and man seemed to be used more indirectly. Or is it a euphemism, using “boy” and “man” instead of a religious interjection like “Jesus” or “God”?

No real answer, but I like the word “ejaculation” better.

How do people react when you use it as an interjection to complain about the weather? :eek:

“Boy (or man), is that nasty!”

I was raised on Schoolhouse Rock and as far as I’m concerned interjections show excitement or emotion. Hallelujah yeah.

“Boy, oh, boy” goes back in print to at least the teens in the US.

No cite, but I’ve always been under the impression that it’s a hep, generic short-form address that can be extended as, “My man [or my boy], that was just nasty,” which itself was probably a short-form of “My good man…” and/or “My boy.” I imagine that it’s the sort of thing one could expect to come out of the early 1900s and popularized in the Roaring 20s.

I agree this is one likely explanation. But the other one I mentioned seems equally probable - that it evolved from people saying “Jesus, it’s hot out” or “God, it’s hot out”. There are examples of expressions like this (gosh, jeepers, gee whiz, blimey, egads, gol darnit, the deuce, etc).

Of course, those examples all have some etymological relation to the names they replaced. I think calling “man” or “boy” the same thing is a bit of a stretch. (Granted, everyone is just speculating idly right now anyway.)

One more example – “Brother!”

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the exclamation “Oh, Boy!” dates back to 1917.

I don’t think that’s exactly what you’re talking about, but later (1934) in the list of examples is this:

As for man, that seems more complicated. Calling somebody “man,” be it man, woman, or child, dates way back to Old English, with a quote from 1225, that I can’t copy and paste because of the eths and thorns and such. However, a quote I can copy is from 1530:

Around 1823, it was taken up as an exclamation of surprise:

I realize after all this I haven’t really given any sort of explanation as to why it’s used. I would hazard to guess it has something to do with the use of the masculine as the gender neutral in English. We were, according to the OED, calling all people “man” for awhile, so using it as an exclamation just sort of fit, and that’s why we can’t say “girl!” or “woman!” unless we’re actually talking to a woman. As far as “boy” goes, I say it has something to do with how awesome the diphthong “oy” is.

Follow-up question: Do they do the same thing in other languages? I don’t think I have ever heard a Frenchman say, “Homme, il fait chaud aujourd’hui!” But you never know.

Closest I can come up with in French is the interjection Dame! It’s a bit old-fashioned, and a bit closer to God than man, I suppose you may say, in its origin, but it’s the best I’ve got.