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I've known that "Oh boy" is similar to "Oh my goodness", but can I use it when speaking to a girl?

Also, what are the popular alternatives?

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    Exclamatory Oh boy! is even more "dated" than [Oh] man!. I suggest you avoid them both, but I don't think the literal gender reference of the words themselves has any relevance to the sex of the speaker, or whoever they might be addressing. Aug 29, 2021 at 11:34
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    @Wenfang It depends on the context. I use "oh boy" pretty often in a negative context, where, depending on the situation, I could replace it with "oh no", "welp", "oof", "ugh", "yikes", or "aw man". If you're using it in a positive context, that sounds more dated to me, but I'd replace it with like, "nice", "alright", "hell yeah", or "sweet". For context, I'm a millennial Maritimer, although some of these might be a bit idiosyncratic, idk.
    – wjandrea
    Aug 29, 2021 at 23:32
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    Holy cow, people sure are down on saying oh boy all of a sudden.
    – barbecue
    Aug 30, 2021 at 12:06
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    I think usage of "oh boy" must vary by location. I am quite sure that in Philadelphia, where I live, it is still common, and does not sound dated or fussy.
    – MJD
    Aug 30, 2021 at 12:48
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    People say "Oh god" when they are not speaking to a god
    – Aaron F
    Aug 30, 2021 at 13:56

3 Answers 3

60

The expression is not even that dated, e.g. here's a movie from 2020 with exact this title, and there's another one from 2012.

In neither case is the title supposed to be a sentence addressed to a male kid. Note that you can also say "Oh, brother" (quote from Daria) even if you don't have one:

Daria - (rolls eyes) Oh, brother.

Jake - He calls himself brother? You mean like Brother Ted?

Daria - No, like, "Oh, brother, you're all crazy."

So there's absolutely no reason you couldn't say "oh, boy" when talking to a girl.

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    This is the correct answer.
    – barbecue
    Aug 30, 2021 at 12:21
  • 3
    Yes, the answer is very much to the point.
    – Lambie
    Aug 30, 2021 at 13:18
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    It's not even dated at all, at least if you're speaking general US English. It may not be the latest slang term used by some social sub-group, but that sub-group's equivalent will probably not be understood by people outside that group.
    – jamesqf
    Aug 30, 2021 at 22:03
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    Exactly. "Oh boy" is an exclamation, and as such, isn't "directed" at anyone.
    – BruceWayne
    Aug 31, 2021 at 14:25
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    Not entirely convinced that a Chinese film from 2020 or German film from 2012 are the final word on current English phrases, however, as a native US-English speaker, it's still in common use in the Midwest US, and is never assumed to be spoken to a male. This gets my +1.
    – FreeMan
    Aug 31, 2021 at 17:00
37

You can, the "boy" in the phrase is not addressed to the person you are speaking to. (It probably started as a minced oath with "boy" replacing the blasphemous "Jesus" or "God")

There is a well known song by Buddy Holly with lyrics "Oh boy, when you're with me...".

As slang it is a little dated. Buddy Holly's song was from the 1950s

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    @sundowner personally I use it every so often. I don't use it as a "minced oath" (I'm perfectly fine swearing if the situation calls for it) but I agree that it may have come from that. It can be used to express excitement or annoyance or resignation. I am aware that it sounds a little dated but I don't think people would think it strange that I use it.
    – randomhead
    Aug 29, 2021 at 13:17
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    @sundowner I would only say it (as a native BrE speaker) if I was being deliberately ironic or sarcastic.
    – alephzero
    Aug 29, 2021 at 18:17
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    As a non-native speaker, I often use it to show my prowess with idioms.
    – Zachiel
    Aug 29, 2021 at 19:52
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    I still hear that phrase used, and I use it myself, in a few specialized contexts. For instance, if I'm about to start some intricate swift-moving task, I'll say to whoever is around me, male or female, "Oh boy, here we go..."
    – Lee Mosher
    Aug 29, 2021 at 20:38
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    I can say that in Texas, at least, "oh boy" is a common phrase, but only in the negative/ironic sense -- it never indicates excitement, only concern or exhausted resignation. (That is to say, "We're going to the amusement park." "Oh boy!" sounds very dated, but "Well, we're going to have to work overtime on Saturday." "Oh, boy..." is totally normal.) Aug 30, 2021 at 17:12
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Can I say “Oh boy” to a girl?

The best way to understand this issue for an English learner.

When you utter phrases such as ...

  • "Fuck!"
  • "O-M-G!"
  • "Oh Boy!"
  • "Wow!
  • "Holy Hell!"

... you are not addressing anyone. That speech fragment is not directed to the person you are talking to.

They are exclamations.

Incidentally: do note that the comments that "Oh Boy" is "dated" are whacky; ignore.

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  • While it is an exclamation not particularly addressed to anyone (and thus, gender-neutral), keep in mind that that it can either be positive (like "Wow!") or negative (like "Oh, shit!"). You would need more context or to hear the tone of voice to know how it's being used, and likewise, you would need to be careful of your tone of voice when speaking it, to convey the intended message (an exclamation of joy and delight, or of resignation and dismay).
    – Phil Perry
    Sep 1, 2021 at 14:32
  • ? every single exclamation in English, indeed, every single utterly sentence in English, can be either "positive or negative". ? every single time you utter anything, in any language, you have to be "careful of the tone of your voice". The question asked is very specific and clear.
    – Fattie
    Sep 1, 2021 at 15:39

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