Last week was the writer’s group meeting at the church. Last month they put a bunch of words and phrases in a hat and all picked one at random. I got the word, “whatever.” So here’s what I wrote about whatever:
In 2009 and again in 2010 the word, “Whatever” topped a Marist College poll as “the most annoying word in conversation.” Seriously, an annoying and rude word. So brace yourself, this isn’t going to be an uplifting or enlightening essay. Hopefully it will be short – I mean, like, dude, what can you say about a annoying word? I think I’ve used the word a few times, but actually can’t think up an anecdote from my life about whatever.
I did a little research on the word. A google search for “Whatever” yielded just over 2.6 billion results. Impressive and just shows the impact of being annoying. One of the top “People also ask,” prompts is “Is whatever a rude word.” Only 29 million results for that, but it looks like from the top results that it’s discussed widely on business communications forums and some of the top high tech social media sites like Stackoverflow, Linkedin, Redit and Quora just to mention the top few.
Yes, almost all the posts I looked at say that “whatever” is rude as it expresses indifference or is dismissive. It is generally acknowledged as a passive-aggressive term used by a speaker to make someone go away without actually getting into an argument.
Personally, I feel that if you’re going to be rude, indifferent or dismissive, there are far better words and phrases for that. I mean if you’re going to impress on some one else exactly how you’re feeling about them, you do can better than, “Whatever.” I don’t mean using ordinary four letter words or the overused f-bomb, which I find mindlessly reactionary and a sign that you haven’t mastered the full richness of the English language. Maybe using the Shakespearean Insult Kit is a bit over the top, but personally I’d prefer to say, “Thine face is not worth sunburning,” rather than, “You’re ugly.” At the very least it will confuse the person you’re insulting long enough for you to make a fast get-a-way.
Some of the earliest known rude uses of “whatever” can be traced to the 1960’s sitcoms, “My Mother the Car,” and surprisingly “Bewitched” where Endora tells her daughter Samantha, “Alright, whatever.” It should be noted that by the 70’s “Whatever” became the universal cry of teenagers just before ending an argument with their mother and slamming their bedroom door. The research isn’t clear here, but it seems that most teenage uses of “whatever” end with either a door slam or a generally loud stomping away by the young person immediately followed by an agonized scream from the older person. The phenomenon using the word in this way continues to be in general use in most homes with a teenager.
I was thinking back to my youth and I don’t recall using “Whatever” in this way myself. I do recall slamming doors and stomping out of the house, but I don’t remember the exact words I used. Likely, I didn’t say anything and went right for the dramatics.
Perhaps the most interesting thing I found out is that the number one search result for “Whatever” is the 1994 song by the English rock band Oasis. The song is six minutes and twenty-one seconds long and in ’94 hit number three on the UK singles chart. Oddly enough, I’ve never heard the song and honestly am a bit afraid to listen to it after studying whatever and six minutes is a bit long to listen to whatever. One interesting thing about this song is that it was subject of an authorship dispute where Neil Innes sued Oasis claiming that they stole eight notes of melodic line from his song, “How Sweet to be an Idiot.” Innes and Oasis settled the lawsuit awarding Innes song writing credit for the eight notes.
After all this research, I have to say that I’m starting to see a connection between, whatever and being an idiot.
That’s it for this week. I expect posting to get a little thin during July as I’m working full speed on the shed and we have out of town guests visiting for most of the month. Don’t worry, I won’t miss a Friday and likely you’ll see lots of pictures here, but not much in the way of essays or poetry. Those do seem to be winter sports.