There is one word in the English language that makes my skin crawl every time it is uttered. Or even worse, every time I hear myself say it and instantaneously hate myself for it. And no, it doesn’t start with a “c”.
It doesn’t start with an “f’ either or an “s”. It does start with a “w” but it’s not wanker, whore or even wank-features. You see, the word that I detest most in the English – and possibly any other – language is “whatever”.
When it comes down to it, you know you – or someone else – is being an arseholey knob-head when “whatever” gets bandied about like vocabulary venom. Let’s face it, it’s never a good look to close down a convo with the “w-word” just because you don’t like where it is going or you don’t agree with what is being said.
I mean, really, we all should grow a pair instead of throwing our toys out of the proverbial linguistic cot when a discussion is not going our way. I am as guilty of this as the next person but I’m thinking that I don’t want to be anymore because you sound like a tool when you use it – every single time.
Urban Dictionary, that barometer of all language that’s hip (or groovy back in my day), has numerous definitions for “whatever” and none of them are charitable. Some of my favourites are:
“Used in an argument to admit that you are wrong without admitting it, so the argument is over.”
“A polite and less vulgar alternative to “FUCK YOU”.
“Passive-aggressive behaviour at its most eloquent.”
“A word used in instances where the user has no logical or superior response to a stimulus they do not like. For further description look under Bitch, Retard, Wimp, or Spoiled-Rotten.” Ha ha! I love this one.
My favourite urban definition, however, is this: “Really means I hope you fall off a bridge, get run over by a boat and then get eaten by a shark” – so in this instance “whatever” may well cost you much more – you know, like your foot – than just a moment of childish word-throwing.
According to Wikipedia, “whatever” or indeed the equally grating “whatevs” has been around for a while, possibly since the 60s. In fact, its first usage in popular culture may have been in the TV show Bewitched in 1965. Funnily enough it was Samantha’s mother Endora who uttered it to her daughter. These days, I’m sure, it’s more likely to be the other way around.
“In the late 20th century and early 21st century, the word became a sentence in its own right; in effect an interjection, it is used as a passive-aggressive conversational blocking tool, leaving the responder without a convincing retort. Anything they do or say can simply be blocked by the retort of “whatever”.
So “whatever” is the ultimate conversation-killer. And since we’re talking about it, I think we should at least also discuss the term “fair enough” as in my opinion these two wisecracks are one and the annoying same. I know this from personal experience. I can’t think of a solitary time when I’ve said “fair enough” and actually meant it in a positive sense. It’s usually been a sarcastic comeback when someone’s opinion is far from my own and I really can’t be arsed talking about it anymore. For (fictional) example:
“So, you see, a conservative government will always be able to balance the books better than a liberal one, because the socialists just give money to poor people who spend it all down at the pub on beer and pokies,” the polar opposite political person to me says.
“Fair enough,” I say (these days) and the conversation is technically officially finished. But until about a year ago, after downing a few of those beers at the pub (bought with my own coin, however), I would not have backed down so easily and would have been up for a verbal stoush for young and old. These days, well, I’ve finally learned that politics is politics and sometimes it’s better just to zip it and walk away because some people are just dickheads who don’t know what they’re talking about.
Whatever you may think about using “whatever” as a sort of abrupt conversational full stop, maybe it’s time that we all tried to use it a little less. Perhaps next time, myself included, we could all attempt to be the better person and just turn the other lexicon cheek when we feel the need to prematurely close down an unsatisfactory discussion with the “w-word”? We could all try to just have a little more grammatical grace or at least only get involved in arguments that we know we’re going to win.