Whatever

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:

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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.

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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.

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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20 Responses to Whatever

  1. G. J. Jolly says:

    “One of the top “People also ask,” prompts is “Is whatever a rude word.””

    Personally, I think if the word, by itself, is used to answer a question, it’s rude. I used to know someone who used it often in this manner, and he definitely used it to be insulting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lakshmi Bhat says:

    I was smiling at some of your thoughts. Here many say, whatever happens happens for the best and that is irritating at times 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dave says:

    I was impressed to find “whatever” defined as an interjection in the dictionary: “used to indicate indifference”. The word is first and foremost a pronoun or an adjective. When I hear “whatever” I can’t help but hear Alicia Silverstone sa it (as Cher) in the movie “Clueless”. She would pronounce it like two words, with full emphasis on “EH-ver” (she also like to say, “As if…”. Anybody who saw the movie probably adopted the same pronunciation, whether used seriously or in jest.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What an interesting word to throw into the hat! Were the other random words equally contentious/passive-aggressive/whatever? (Oops. Couldn’t help using that word. But I didn’t mean it in a dismissive sense.) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dave Foyle says:

    Always enjoy your posts, Andrew. …
    No matter what(ever) the topic is!

    I enjoyed watching the trials and tribulations of deconstruction/construction of the shed.

    Stay cool and stay in the shade. 😎

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Whatever is such an overused word, but I would rather hear it than the foul and vulgar language bandied about. Using the f-bomb just proves to me people don’t have a decent vocabulary. Call me a purist…whatever. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rude, yes, but a better alternative than a few I can think of!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. At the risk of being an idiot, I am not fully opposed to the use of ‘whatever’ in the sense you mean here. There are times when conversing with another said idiot and no matter how many facts you present to them on a topic that you may differ on, they hunker down and try to escalate the conversation into an argument.

    Now – don’t get me wrong. I love a healthy argument from time to time. A nice, spirited debate can actually be rather fun. Especially when I am on a secure, factual footing with someone with a degree of intellect. Many times I even learn something new and come away from the conversation enlightened. Or at least feeling like I learned something. Or respecting another for their view.

    But take the other kind of discussion. The baseless, off-the-rails kind that isn’t supported by actual facts. The kind where you go in circles with the other person – you stating factual evidence and them countering with rumor and propaganda. It can be a very frustrating and maddening experience. Especially if you aren’t in a mood.

    In that case, I have been known to use the term “whatever” to put an end to it. it is a difficult point for them to argue back. It is non-committal, It doesn’t mean you agree with them, but it can help stop their need to continue presenting their case. It has probably saved many friendships (and possibly in the extreme sense – a few lives) over time. 😉 (Oh – and the term “Right” is another good one that I find myself using. Not really, “Right!”, but, “Right.” I tend to lean on that lately more than the ‘whatever’ as it seems a little less caustic. But what do I know? (another passive/aggressive ending to a thought! LOL! I am starting to think I am well-versed in these things! HA! )

    Just my thoughts from the other side. I enjoyed your article a great deal. Have a wonderful week!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Every time I have heard people say “whatever”—they meant “I don’t care.”
    This ‘whatever’ implies that it is too hard to even bother to express how they feel about another person or situation. It’s just…whatever. Definitely very rude!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. jfwknifton says:

    Your post was very interesting. I don’t think in England we use “whatever” in this sense. We understand it because of American films, but older people in particular would not use it.
    We use the word in its usual sense….. “Whatever you do, there’s no pleasing the boss” and so on. Even Oasis used it in this sense:
    “I’m free to be whatever…. whatever I choose “.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t hear it used this way among our English family – I do think it’s an American usage, but even with that, it seems to be more used by younger folks in some areas. Not used this way everywhere.

      Like

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