chip on the shoulder

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Nov 12 19:21:21 UTC 2010

Why isn't this usage taken as suggesting the GOP was posing a
challenge to non-believers, its chip on the shoulder?  And that
instead of feeling powerful, daring others to challenge it, the GOP
should be worried about the weight, its unpopularity?


At 11/12/2010 02:08 PM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>An odd but unsurprising meaning reversal:
>>We're talking about the first time in recent memory in which an
>>unpopular party was replaced with an even more unpopular party. That
>>should be a weight on GOP shoulders, not a chip on GOP shoulders.
>This reading suggests that "a chip on the shoulder" is either something
>light that could be ignored or something positive. Not quite what the
>OED has:
>>a chip on one's shoulder (orig. U.S.), carried as a challenge to
>>others (see earlier quots.); hence, a display of defiance or
>>ill-humour; an unforgotten grievance; a sense of inferiority
>>characterized by a quickness to take offence.
>In contrast, "not to care a chip" suggests lightness of burden.
>Similarly, "chip in porridge/broth" suggests similar unimportance (OED:
>"does neither harm nor good"). All three are filed under the same
>subentry in OED.
>Relevant OED examples ("not care a chip" goes back further):
>>1675 COTTON Scoffer Scoft 115, I know, but care not of a Chip. 1686
>>GOAD Celest. Bodies I. xvii. 108 The Sextile is no Chip in Broth..but
>>a very considerable Engine. 1688 Vox Cleri Pro Rege 56 A sort of Chip
>>in Pottage, which (he hopes) will not do Popery much good, nor the
>>Church of England much harm. 1830 Long Isl. Tel. (Hempstead, N.Y.) 20
>>May 3/5 When two churlish boys were determined to fight, a chip would
>>be placed on the shoulder of one, and the other demanded to knock it
>>off at his peril. 1855 Weekly Oregonian 17 Mar. (Th.), Leland, in his
>>last issue, struts out with a chip on his shoulder, and dares Bush to
>>knock it off. 1868 HOLME LEE B. Godfrey xxxi. 164 Basil did not care a
>>chip. 1880 Ch. Times 25 June (D.), The Burials
>>resemble the proverbial chip in porridge, which does neither good nor
>>harm. 1887 Harper's Mag. Oct. 658/1 The way that dog went about with a
>>chip on his shoulder..was enough to spoil the sweetest temper. 1903
>>N.Y. Sun 1 Nov., Who, they say, wears a chip on his shoulder because
>>he didn't get the Republican nomination for City Treasurer. 1905 Amer.
>>Illustr. Mag. Nov. 88 Each boy had a sort of chip-on-the-shoulder air.
>>1930 W. S. MAUGHAM Gentl. in Parlour xliv. 271 He was a man with a
>>chip on his shoulder. Everyone seemed in a conspiracy to slight or
>>injure him. 1952 W. J. H SPROTT Social Psychol. 220 If you are
>>spoiling for a fight you go about with a 'chip on the shoulder'
>>challenging anyone to knock it off. 1956 J. CANNAN People to be Found
>>ix. 148, I got him the sack--months ago but all this time he's been
>>carrying a chip on his shoulder.
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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