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4 Comments

  • Interesting to see how the presidential race is, as always, having its effects on language. I agree (with you and Mark Liberman in Language Log) that ‘entitlement’ seems to be undergoing ‘pejoration’ to become a more negatively-charged term. Romney and others use it to attack the poor, but from looking at our data it’s clear that the expression ‘ a sense of entitlement’ (now very negative) has a marked tendency to be used about the rich and famous. We hear for example of U.S. football stars who, “fawned over by everyone they’ve met, have a well-developed sense of entitlement”, or about the late Alan Clark, an aristocratic British politician who lived in a castle, “whose diaries reek of a sense of entitlement and the hankering for the preservation of privilege”.

  • Interesting points, Michael. This reminds me of another marked use of the idea of entitlement: I have a friend who works in mental health care and has spent some time on the staff in mental hospitals. He says they have a term “entitled patient,” that designates a certain fairly common type: a patient who is aware of the rules of the hospital but thinks that those rules do not apply to him or her. Except in a strict legal sense, it seems there is always a grudge going on somewhere when there is talk of entitlement, and I wonder if legislators chose poorly when they decided to use the term with regard to legislation.