A linguistic rant: on entitlement

Not a huge deal, but I’m a little annoyed at how the words “entitled” and “entitlement” seem to be gradually getting adopted as catch-all negative descriptors. In some corners of the corporate world you’re now seeing management decry their employees’ “sense of entitlement” when oftentimes those people’s attitudes might be more accurately described as “desiring ample rewards as compensation for our working our asses off for you.”  Thanks to its worsening connotation, the word becomes a useful cudgel for making the peons get in line.

Look. You know who thought being entitled to things could be good? The guys who wrote the goddamn Declaration of Independence, that’s who.

When…it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

The world is a complicated place. Sometimes you justifiably deserve stuff and sometimes you don’t. The fact that you think you deserve stuff, though, does not by itself really tell us anything about you as a person beyond that you appear to be assertive. We’d need more information on your situation to know whether your sense of entitlement is reasonable (good) or unreasonable (bad).  I realize I’m in mountain-out-of-a-molehill territory by now, but there was something really weird about seeing this Gawker post describing Meg Whitman’s kid’s “reputation for entitled belligerence when drinking.” Guys, you work for Nick Denton, not the Paper of Record. The phrase you were really looking for here is time-honored, unambiguous, and a model of perfect brevity: it’s “asshole.”

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