Whatever! (Eavesdropping on my kids)

Now I’m showing my age: the discourse of kids has changed so much since I was one, and I am endlessly fascinated and, by turns, alarmed at the usage.  Take ‘whatever’ for example.  In my day, I say back in my day we said ‘Whatever’ to mean ‘you have given me a choice, and I am happy with either situation…which would you prefer?’  But twentysomething years later, when listening to my kids, I’ve discovered it can mean: ‘I’m so not going to give you the benefit of any kind of enthusiasm, even if I’m so desperately interested I can hardly keep my knees still,’ or ‘I am too cool to care about what you just said’, or ‘I wasn’t listening to what you just said, but I’m not going to admit it!’   or even ‘you caught me out, but I can’t admit that I was wrong.’

I’ve noticed it can be used as a panic response:

Me: ‘Crikey, child, have you just ripped those brand new jeans, that I bought yesterday, from the ankle to your knee?’

Child: ‘Whatever.’

Interestingly, Whatever can mean ‘yes’  but conversely it can also mean ‘No’ as in:

Me: ‘Dear eldest child would you mind going into the kitchen and cleaning up the ungodly mess you just made, whilst preparing yourself a hot chocolate?’

Son: ‘Whatever,’

…not to worry though as this is often followed with:

Son: ‘Hey Mum, can I have an advance on my allowance to buy the latest music mag/skull top/pre-owned game?’

Me: ‘Whatever.’

You know what I’ve learned?  Whatever is really all about the cool.

Child: ‘Wow, Mum, you should see Blahblah’s house!  It’s so clean, you can see your reflection in the floor, and Blahblah’s clothes are all, like, straight and don’t have those funny lines where the pegs have been, and their dog’s fur is pure white and smells like roses!!’

Me: ‘Whatever.’

See what I mean?

6 thoughts on “Whatever! (Eavesdropping on my kids)

  1. The more conservative linguists have always bemoaned the state of the younger generation’s apparent receding shoreline of vocabulary (whilst ignoring the avalanche of new words that replace the older ones) . But I think the kids have something there: if “whatever” means so many different things, they’ll need to learn to spell only half a dozen polysyllabic words in order to get their leaving certificates!

  2. Thankyou, James, I think I may have earned my yellow belt for that one!

    Ahhh, but will we have the translators adequately trained to interpret appropriately, or will our generation always, always be on the back foot trying to catch up? My next post on the subject may well be about the word/sound ‘Huh’ !

    Verbal communication between the generations is such a tricky thing (especially within one household), we really should pay more attention to the communication of corgis.

    I DO like chickens, and I love chicken posts!

  3. Lol, great translation of this mysterious word. Being the SMS generation, I guess we are lucky they don’t say W.E. instead. I blame Alicia Silverstone in ‘Clueless’for being the Great Great Grandmother of this brave new language…As If!

  4. A work colleague actually showed me an email exchange between two people at his client site last week that he was copied on. One person was being patient and helpful in their choice of words, the other started their reply with…”Whatever!” and then proceeded to show no patience, no maturity and no manners. The author – an adult, apparently 🙂 .

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