Meanings: “Entitlement”

October 7, 2012

On Language Log, Mark Liberman has a terrific post about how uses of the word “entitlement” have shifted from being predominantly positive to predominantly negative. He says, “The earliest cluster of uses of entitlement meaning ‘(rightful) claim’ that I’ve found is associated with post-WWII veterans’ benefits.”  But he goes on to say “By the early 1960s, some business publications are using entitlement, referring to workers’ benefits, in contexts where those benefits are viewed as anything but legitimate.”

He also shows that use of the word at all is relatively recent: as the word comes into more common usage, the connotation of “entitlement” is of a benefit not deserved.  And yet this is how we talk of social security and unemployment insurance.

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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