possible antedate of indiscriminative "whatever"?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jul 20 20:08:25 UTC 2006

Consider this dialogue from the last ensemble scene in the fourth of
the "Thin Man" movies.  Stevens, one of the miscreants, is trying to
maintain his alibi for the time of the murder, despite his visit to
the victim's apartment.

Lt. Abrams:  "In case you want to deny it, I can get the cab driver
who took you there."
Stevens:  "Whatever. That was four hours before Rainbow was killed."

"Shadow of the Thin Man", 1941

The indiscriminative or je-m'en-foutiste "whatever" is included as a
2001 draft addition with the following gloss:

int. colloq. (orig. U.S.). Usually as a response, suggesting the
speaker's reluctance to engage or argue, and hence often implying
passive acceptance or tacit acquiescence; also used more pointedly to
express indifference, indecision, impatience, scepticism, etc.: 'as
you wish'; 'if you say so'; 'it makes no difference to me'; 'have it
your own way'; 'fine'.

The first cite is 1973, although some earlier cites under 3c. of the
original entry are clearly related.  But none of those have quite the
precise je m'en foutiste "fine; if you say so" flavor, while
Stevens's really does seem to.

Jesse, what sayest thou?


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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