Even stranger, however, is the derivation of the word "guy". From a proper name to a derogatory term to a generic term. I found this on Online Etymology, but I'm going to reword the explanation in chronological order with some of the inferences filled in, because I had to read their explanation three times for it to make sense.
- Guy Fawkes got his name from Old German word for "wood" or "warrior", or possibly Welsh for "lively" or French for "guide" -- but it was a standard boy's name at the time at any rate.
- Guy Fawkes planned the failed Gunpowder Plot to blow up the House of Lords.
- Thereafter, Guy Fawkes Day was celebrated with fireworks and bonfires, and an effigy of Guy Fawkes paraded through the streets being set before fire. The effigy would have been a straw man wearing cast-off clothing.
- The name Guy would have been so associated with this effigy, that calling somebody a "guy" must have brought to mind a badly-dressed scarecrow figure at that time.
- The term became more generic, from meaning "badly-dressed fellow" to meaning "ordinary man", over the course of just a generation.
I wonder if there's a term for when a derogatory word becomes unobjectionable, and whether this usually happens by being appropriated (the people the term refers to use the word proudly) or just by being watered down.