the a word
November 23, 2012, 2:31 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , ,

I’ve never really liked or used the a-word, so committing an entire post to it goes way past my usual comfort level.  For what it’s worth, I’ll apologize up front to anyone who feels the same – no doubt we share a common, repressed past.

Still, it’s too important a topic to not care about – especially now with all the a-word’s running around, and running things, including our lives.  A-holes are a dominant and crescendoing  demographic, and primers that help to describe who they are, are necessary.

If you need proof, two authors – a linguist and a philosopher – just published books on the topic from which I have excerpted the definitions that follow.

A-holes are, according to James:  entitled; and Nunberg: inauthentic (again in the sense of being entitled to unearned privilege), and obtuse (in the sense of not being able to discern awareness of self from place in community).

Now you know what to look for; and, if you’re brave, can use your new knowledge to call out the bullies among us who are taking what’s not theirs.

Here are the definitions from Aaron James’ and Geoffrey Nunberg’s books:

A person counts as an asshole when, and only when, he systematically allows himself to enjoy special advantages in interpersonal relations out of an entrenched sense of entitlement that immunizes him against the complaints of other people.

U.C. –Irvine philosophy professor Aaron James’ Assholes: A Theory

Asshole launches its attack from the ground level, in the name of ordinary Joes, people whose moral authority derives not from their rank or breeding but from their authenticity, which is exactly the thing that the asshole lacks. Inauthenticity is implicit whenever we speak of a “sense of entitlement,” another phrase that entered the American idiom around the time asshole did. … The connection is intrinsic to the idea of the asshole, who imagines that his role or status gives him privileges that aren’t really his to claim. … The asshole’s obtuseness makes him incapable of separating his sense of who he is or what he does or what he has or what he knows, which is what it means to be inauthentic.

U.C.–Berkeley linguist Geoffrey Nunberg’s Ascent of the A-Word


Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: