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I’m tired of your attitude

I remember well the first time I heard the word “attitude” used to mean “negative attitude.” It was shortly after John Lennon had been killed. I was in a mall and the poster shop was selling some crappy Lennon memorial posters at jacked up prices. I was devoted to Lennon, and muttered something about it being opportunism. “You got an attitude,” the clerk said, sneering. “I don’t need your attitude.”

I was tempted to say, “Yes, I have an attitude. We all have attitudes.” But I knew what he meant.

Likewise, nowadays I hear weather forecasters predicting that there will be “some weather moving in.” No, there’s always weather. They mean “severe weather” or maybe just “noticeable weather.” I do sometimes correct them, but since they’re on tv, it hasn’t yet had an effect. Except on my wife who finds it charming every time I do it, or so I choose to believe.

This is far from the first time a quality has been taken as denoting a particular value when used unadorned. “He has a temperature.” “You’ve got a reputation.””He’s in a mood.” I suppose you could even put “a person of color” into that category. So, it happens.

But that won’t stop me from whining about it.

2 Responses to “I’m tired of your attitude”

  1. I still have to remind young doctors and medical students occasionally that we all have temperatures (even those who have shuffled off this mortal coil) and that they mean the person has a fever. Sometimes I get an attitude when I do it.

  2. “Judge” is another one. “Don’t judge me” now seems to mean “Don’t judge me negatively.” However, the outcome of judgement can be positive or negative, and the term was used that way until fairly recently.

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