So, Entitled

In a recent article in the Guardian, this appeared:

It is no one’s “destiny” to be a published author. That implies a path laid out for us, an unshakeable future that is planned and unchangeable. And it is entitled.

That is a perfectly normal use of the modern sense of the word “entitled,” and it still slightly bothers me, as it has lo! these several years.

Because what it really means is that the person isn’t actually entitled to the thing in question. The older sense of “entitle” is to have the right to something — literally to have the title.

The modern meaning — the “He’s so entitled” formulation — really means “He’s behaving as if he were entitled to…”

Dictionary.com gives the definition of entitle as:

to give (a person or thing) a title, right, or claim to something; furnish with grounds for laying claim

Merriam-Webster is similar;

1: to give a title to : designate
2: to furnish with proper grounds for seeking or claiming something this ticket entitles the bearer to free admission

And neither has the modern meaning at all.

But I’m slightly horrified to find that the built-in dictionary in MacOS only has the modern meaning:

adjective
believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment: kids who feel so entitled and think the world will revolve around them

It’s interesting, though, that its definition of entitle is similar to the two web-based ones. And Cambridge has both. It seems the difference is whether you use the verb or the adjective. The latter is the only one with the modern meaning.

Language changes, and that’s fine. But I wish that people who use it in the modern fashion understood what it is they’re saying, and what it can sound like they’re saying. I suspect they mostly don’t.

They’re behaving like they’re entitled to make words mean whatever they want.

Little, Feat…

Many songs these days involve one or more other artists guesting with the main one. Rappers adding a part to a singer’s track, for example. Nowadays such guests are always credited. Quite rightly: we’ve come a long way from the days when Billy Preston played keyboards on some Beatles songs uncredited (though visible in the famous Apple Music rooftop performance).

As featured artists, such guests are nearly always credited using the abbreviation “feat.” “The Beatles feat Billy Preston,” to give an example that was never used.

But “feat” is a word on it’s own, of course, as well as an abbreviation. Which I think may be why I always find the formation slightly amusing. And there used to be a band called Little Feat, if I’m not very much mistaken (I’ve never knowingly heard them).

So I’ve been wondering how the modern crediting style would have worked if they had ever been guests, or had featured guests, on any of their songs. “Little Feat feat Joe Feet.” “Legs & Co feat Little Feat.”1

Alas, it was not the way back then. Though their Wikipedia article suggests they’re still around, so it could happen.

More surprisingly it tells us that they changed “Feet” to “Feat” as a “homage to the Beatles.”2 I had no inkling of that connection when I mentioned the Beatles above.


  1. Yes, I know Legs & Co were dancers. I’m just trying to make up mildly amusing names. I invented Joe Feet. []
  2. I’m assuming that refers to the story of the Beatles naming that involved them wanting an insect name like Buddy Holly & the Crickets, but changing the spelling so it read as beat music. []

Pivoting Around Words

I should start a new category here, for word-use. In fact, having written that, I just have: language (hopefully that link will work once I publish this).

Today I want to talk about the word “pivot.” As you know, pivot has come, over the last few years, to mean change direction, especially in a political context. A recent example from the New Yorker: Don’t Be Fooled. Donald Trump Didn’t Pivot.

It sort of makes sense, but like many knew usages, I can’t help but wonder why it has come into this use.

And for this one I also can’t help but wonder to what extent Friends is responsible.

You’ll know the episode I’m thinking of, if you’ve seen it: Ross is moving in to a new apartment, and being too cheap to pay the delivery charge, ropes Rachel in to help him move a sofa. Inevitably they get stuck on the stairs, and he keeps shouting at her, “Pivot! Pivot!” to try to get her to turn the sofa in an unspecified direction.

Of course, he might have been using it quite precisely: the sofa probably needed to rotate about a fixed point, which is what “pivot” originally meant.

What it has come to mean, in politics, is a change of direction less than a U-turn (or flip-flop); but still quite a substantial one. I suppose it has a sense of turning without moving forward at the same time. Though I may be overthinking it there. It’s quite descriptive, but it seems like it has becoming ubiquitous incredibly quickly; and is already practically a cliche.

Of course that’s just my view of the optics of the thing.

Optics

The word “optics” used to mean the science of light. It still does, of course, but it now also refers to “how things look,” in terms of public image and so on.

And it from what I can tell it has only come into this use in the last year or so. I first heard it on tech podcasts, but it was recently in a front-page headline (though the second story) in The Guardian. And I heard it on the telly. I think it was in Agents of SHIELD, wherein they included an explanation of what it means.

I can see how it can be used in its new meaning, but how did it come to be used that way?

And it seems that I’m right that it’s relatively new: Wikipedia, googling: both only turn up definitions like “the branch of physics to do with light.”

Now Urban Dictionary’s top definition is exactly what I’m talking about:

What something will look like to the outside world; the perception a public relations person would have on something. First seen (at least by me) in article by Equity Private on finance blog dealbreaker

Economists repurposing words from real science to dismal? Sounds entirely plausible.