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Reclaiming “Whatever”

“Whatever” is annoying. It’s as annoying as “fuckit” and “who cares.” It bothers me like “you don’t matter anyway” and “shut up.”

“Whatever” is all of these things and none of them. It’s a passive-aggressive way to dismiss something said or done by someone else – or that person entirely. It’s an inherently selfish term one uses when he or she is sufficiently unsatisfied with a person, place, thing, or event.

But what might it really mean? “What” is looking for a specific quality, quantity, identity, degree of, etc. The word is asking for an object. But “ever” signifies an unspecified time or way of doing things. It usually is used intensify a statement. To use an example from Borat!: “This suit has no black in it.” “This suit has no black in it whatever (or whatsoever).” Here’s how it’s used in a positive statement: “Whatever I do today will make tomorrow happier!”

Literally it is a term intensifying the acceptance of something. It’s really a term signifying an undefined openness for which one can be serene or at peace rather than sarcastic and dismissive. We can use it as a term describing a future on which we have given up or one that says what we accept is unknown, freeing us up to focus our energy on the present.

In a way “whatever” points to two ways of dealing with things that will take place in the future: one is to dismiss it all and continue doing whatever we’re doing without care of the consequences or the affect it will have on others. The other is to accept what will happen in the future as something we can’t control so there’s no use worrying. I worked one summer cleaning apartments with a Jamaican. He used to say “Part ‘o’ life mon!” Don’t worry be happy!

So to what might happen tomorrow I say WHATEVER. Now I can focus on what’s important right now. There’s a good chance that if I do that tomorrow will work out just fine anyway.

About Andrew Tatusko

Secularization, critical pedagogy, sometimes agnostic, politics, and a ton of running. Penn State is definitely not responsible for what I say.


One thought on “Reclaiming “Whatever”

  1. To me, “Whatever” is very annoying. I get into discussions with my son. He says, “Whatever.” I feel so dismissed. “Whatever” is disengaging. I want to engage. I want to be part of a dynamic “whatever.” This is a good start.

    Posted by juststormy | May 30, 2012, 10:05 PM

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