Whatever... Worse than "No Problem"?

Mark's great post about "no problem" reminded me of an article by Nick Paumgarten that I read in The New Yorker magazine a couple of years ago. It was about another supremely annoying response: "whatever." Until I read Paumgarten's article, I couldn't articulate why exactly I found this so irritating...

The article is worth reading in full because Paumgarten weaves in a lovely anecdote about Russell Crowe exploding into physical violence when a hotel desk clerk gives the "W" response to Russell's complaints about the phone service. (I'm not usually on the side of physical violence, but My Dear, there are limits to what one simple Australian can be expected to take.)

Here are the hightlights:

"'Whatever' is as incendiary as it is nonchalant; the nonchalance is what makes it incendiary. 'Whatever' turns disengagement into something withering and mean."

"...moralists ... regard the routine deployment of 'whatever' as the ultimate symptom of indifference in the culture at large."

"The word immediately exhibits a complete lack of respect for your point of view or situation...It’s basically saying that your point of view is crap."



Darren said...

I agree that "whatever" is rude, if not downright incindiery, in almost any context (there are plenty of polite ways to indicate that "what you just said is not important"), but I would question how common the w-word is. I almost never hear it, precisely *because* it's rude as hell.

Mark Hanington said...


Virginia said...

I think one must live in a household with teenagers to be graced regularly with the W word. And the so familiar withering look that accompanies it.

I'll be forwarding this post to the culprits at my house, as it says this so much better than I can, and it will have a much better chance of being heard.