A “dude” as seen in 1884 (Library of Congress via Pale of the Future)
For a while we had a freelance artist who kept careful track of how many times she heard the word “dude” in our offices. “Today was a 30-dude day,” she said one day as she was leaving.
However, no one seems to know where the word “dude” came from.
Pale of the Future has an interesting insight into where the roots of the word dude may lie.
In the Wellsboro Agitator (Wellsboro, Pennsylvania) issue of April 26, 1893, the author Robert Graves has a definition of what a dude is.
According to Graves the word dude means an American man who is pretending to be British through his accent and style of dress. Apparently dudes even had a particular style of handshake which Graves describes as “idiotic.”
A quote from Graves:
A dude in my classification is a man who aspires to social distinction for elegant personal appearance and seeks it through the mediumship of affectation or dress or speech. He is a dude, or something akin to one, who imitates the apparel and pronunciation of words supposed to exist chiefly in some foreign city, notably London. He is a dude who lisps or makes an effort to broaden his “o’s” and to lengthen his “a’s” or to ape an imaginary artistocracy in any other manner. Washington is full of such dudes.
See much more here.
Source: Pale of the Future.