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.


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.