Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Sociological Implications of "Whatever"

Since it has been well established that this blog is to be about "whatever" let us take a moment and delve into some of the intracacies of this beloved word. Seriously, think for a moment about the implications contained in this powerful word. I know of no other phrase that is as guaranteed to produce rage in authority figures as "whatever." That word implies a disregard that is beyond mere contempt or dismissal. Someone spends a good five minutes of lung power explaining something to you and you reply with "whatever, man" - this is brutal; almost malicious. Saying "what?" implies you didn't listen; saying "whatever" implies that you DID listen, but chose willfully to disregard everything the person said, arbitrarily.

"Whatever" also gets you off the hook, removing the need for any sort of counterargument. In true Generation-X or Y or whatever we're up to now style, there's really no point in having an opinion when the next set of commercials on MTV is going to change it for you.

"Whatever" is also a replacement word for anything you are too tired to think about, like when you tell your wife "Woman, get me a beer out of the fridge, and whatever," implying that there are also chips, salsa, and dried salted seaweed to be fetched, but you can't decide which ones you want...not that she's actually going to bring it to you anyway...but whatever.

It is also a phrase used to express self-doubt. You can say "I wanna be a film director, or whatever" which is perfect since it gives you plenty of room to fail and become a film crew janitor without completely forsaking your integrity.

"Whatever" is certainly not a new word - all that has changed is the attitude around the word, the implications involved in using it as a phrase rather than as a simple adjective or implied pronoun. In his article entitled "Like, Whatever" David Astle seems to claim that it's the film "Clueless" which indelibly stamped the expression into our culture forever ("What-everrr!"), but the scriptwriters obviously had to learn it from the mean streets of Beverly Hills.

The older generation, especially politicians tend to use the phrase as Webster says to use it - to imply a simple list, as a substitute for "et cetera." They're not aware of the Gen-X,Y,Z usage, loaded with bitter contempt and arrogant dismissal. So, saying "I care about the children, the homeless, or whatever" may seem perfectly logical to someone like Bob Dole, but it seems callous and cold to us.

"Whatever" is a beautiful word - it sums up a generation of slackers in a single expression. It's like flipping someone off without even expending the effort to raise a middle finger. So when someone confronts you with an opinion or rant about which you could care less, savor the moment that they will finish, waiting for that time when you can deliver the one-word death blow, from which there is no recovery.


EXAMPLES:

[Source: The Evasion-English Dictionary by Maggie Balistreri, Melville House, 2003]

Apathetic Whatever (translation – Yeah, so): Oh, I’m immature? Whatever.

Pseudo-Impartial Whatever (Who am I to judge?): She’s dating the boss. Whatever.

Self-Pitying Whatever (Why am I always the martyr?): Never mind I did all the work but whatever.

Slow Thaw Whatever (OK but I’m gonna sulk): Him: I’m sorry. Let’s have dinner. Her: Whatever.

Emotion Kibosh Whatever (Get over it): Dad, whatever, it’s just a tattoo.

Evasion Evader Whatever (I’ll see you an evasion and raise you one): So now she’s mad at me. Whatever.

Jealous Whatever (Lucky so-and-so): His uncle got him the job but whatever.

Minced Oath (F*** you): Her: This kitchen is a pit. Him: Whatever.

Faltering Cliché Whatever (Let’s skip the psychobabble hey): That way you can get closure or whatever.

Bashful Whatever (Oops. Emotion. Sorry): I just feel such total love or whatever.

Doubting Thomas Whatever (Liar, liar, pants on fire): He said he lost my phone number and I’m like whatever.


So I hope you enjoyed todays post but if you didn't:



6 comments:

EJ said...

link me to your blog

Lewie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewie said...

I like using "whatever" when I'm given choices that are equally appealing. Too bad I can't name those choices here or I'll get in trouble. I'd be like, "dude, I'll take whatever!"

Beth and Luke said...

Sometimes you actually shock me with a hint of intellect...

bradinthesand said...

...beth and luke are harsh.

bradinthesand said...

"'Whatever' is also a replacement word for anything you are too tired to think about, like when you tell your wife 'Woman, get me a beer out of the fridge, and whatever,' implying that there are also chips, salsa, and dried salted seaweed to be fetched, but you can't decide which ones you want...not that she's actually going to bring it to you anyway...but whatever."


hilarious...