Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Do you have a chip on your shoulder?

This is such a funny saying.  I had to look it up to find out where it came from.  According to the Phrase Finder it started out that shipwrights were allowed to carry out planks of wood (chips) on their shoulders after work.  However many planks a man could carry on his shoulder were his to keep.  But, the owners soon deemed too much wood was being removed and the shipwrights could only carry out what they were able to carry UNDER ONE arm.  This was substantially fewer planks (chips) and the shipwrights PUSHED BACK with their chips on their shoulders.

How does this story link to today's usage pertaining to a belligerent attitude?  "The first such record by an English author doesn't seem to be until the 1930s in fact, in Somerset Maugham's Gentleman in the Parlour:
"He was a man with a chip on his shoulder. Everyone seemed in a conspiracy to slight or injure him.""  (from Phrase Finder)
Yep, here we are.  "Everyone seemed in a conspiracy to slight or injure him."  This is how we use this phrase today.  Evidently, there was a time when men actually placed chips of wood ON their shoulders and dared someone to knock them off.  Thus instigating a fight.  Oh, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could see the chips carried on shoulders today.  It's tough enough to see the chip when we meet the individual carrying the chip face to face.  Sometimes you can see the look in their eye when a specific subject comes into conversation.  We all know to leave politics and religion alone in pleasant conversation.  Right?  But, there are MANY more minefields out in pleasant conversation.  I don't have to list them.  I'm sure you've stumbled on to most of them yourselves.  Often when one accidentally bumped into one of these subjects, one would be asked to leave this subject alone and the conversation moved on from there.  The "bumper" then made a mental note never to breech this area of discussion with this person again.  Wonderful.

Now, however, these chips can be bumped off in a virtual way.  Social media interaction can cause a chip to be knocked off at a moment's notice.  And, you don't even have to be communicating with the chip carrier to do the "knocking off."  You can post a status for all your "friends."  You can "like" a comment or status.  (And, sometimes "like" doesn't mean like, sometimes it means, I agree with you, but if you have a chip balanced on your shoulder it can get knocked off fairly easily.)

Oh, the difficulties of social media.

I have a solution to this delicate situation.  I know you are dying to know what it is.  Well, I'll tell you, but I'm not sure you're going to like it.  It's going to be hard to do.  It's going to take a lot of effort.  Some of you are REALLY going to struggle with this solution.  But, I'm going to tell you anyway...

Grow up.  Quit being a baby or a high school drama queen.  Get some thicker skin.  Get over yourself.  The world is a tough place and if you go around with a chip on your shoulder, daring anyone you meet to knock it off, guess what?  Someone is going to knock it off your shoulder.  Whether it be on purpose or accidentally.  The best thing you can do for yourself is to take that chip off your shoulder.

I hope I haven't hurt anyone's feelings by saying this.  :)

Seriously, I DON'T want to ruffle feathers and hurt feelings.  I'm so disappointed there is not an "Emily Post" for this new frontier of social interaction.  And, I realize many of the users of this medium are teenagers and they just don't know any better, but that isn't who I'm speaking about here.  You know who you are.  I hear you talking in the locker rooms and the hair dresser.  I hear you complaining about "so and so" and what she said on fb or what she tweeted.  I see the whiny mommy blogs and the ranting political blogs.  Grown-ups don't hide behind a computer and type things they wouldn't say to a person's face.  Grown-ups don't hide up in the spare room and hide behind the smiling face of a profile picture.  Grown-ups know there are many different sides of an issue.  And they don't carry the chip on their shoulder.  They know EVERYONE is thinking about themselves, not them.  You are not the center of the universe anymore.  We all are our own center.  Right or wrong, most people are just thinking about themselves.  Take the chip off your shoulder.

It's very unattractive.


  1. Right
    on target. There's a serious shortage of adult behavior today, at every
    level of interaction, particularly on-line, as lacking between "regular
    folks" as it is among our social and political decision-makers. Is it
    any wonder? Our society is degenerating
    into a thinly disguised update of "Lord of the Flies" with
    chronologically overdeveloped children running their self-entitled power
    games everywhere from the P.T.A. bake-sales to our parliaments. 

  2. whew...when you got something to say you say it...if it was a chocolat chip on my shoulder i would eat it...smiles....but i do know what you are saying...i wonder at times if we need filter training now that we can tell the world what we really think...and btw i am not going anywhere...still have my corner of the web...just expanding my horizons...

  3. I love the history of this saying, interesting. I think it's only fair to let people be who they are at that particular time, and if that is ranting and raving - this is THEIR journey and it should be respected regardless of our opinions of it - just my thoughts. I think it is ok to have a chip on your shoulders - if this is that one persons journey to their 'better selves' them let them be. My solution - Don't involved yourself - easy ;-) 

  4.  Thanks.  It felt good to get this off my chest.

  5.  Thanks, I don't involve myself, but I encourage growth in people and responsibility for their responses to  events that occur in the social media.  Some of  us were born in a time when we had to respond, FACE TO FACE instead of fb.

  6. I agree.  There's one guy on facebook that I ended up "hiding" because he posts political rants.  All day long.  You can "unfriend" but I don't want to close the door entirely on our real life friendship.  Someone out there must like that kind of posting on fb and it's working for them.   I mainly like to see what my nieces are up to.  :)

  7. Isn't it a chain, though? Like, they have chip on their shoulder and then we get upset because they got upset and then we have the chip on our shoulder because "I was just sharing my opinion! you don't have to get upset" and then the other person "I wasn't upset, I was just saying that I don't agree with what you said!" Then there are chips on everyone's shoulders. Right? I think that as long as we know that what we are saying is with good intentions, if the other person gets upset, that's their own deal. It's interesting that you talk about this because I'm currently studying something related to this, except my books call it "Shenpa" and we all have it. I definitely have it and I'm working on making it less.

  8. wow!  really great post, well-written. . . love the history behind the saying.  technology has done us many favors but it has also thrown us into a pattern of behavior that is, in many ways, quite unacceptable, eh?

  9. 36&NoideahowtogrowupAugust 17, 2013 at 10:08 PM

    I couldn't agree more, except that if people knew how to "grow up", I'm sure they would. Most people have no idea what that means, or there's 50,000 ideas as to what it supposedly means. I think some people need compassion before a swift kick in the arse.
    I'll not trying to be an asshole, only toake a statement.

  10. Amen to your comment! You speak for me 100%. I have a chip on my shoulder the size of the atlantic ocean and that is what drives and fuels me to greater heights. Without this chip, i would be nothing. Zero!

  11. I know I have a chip on my shoulder and I have to learn not to be so personable with everyone. I learned the hard way all the time that they are ignorant people out there who still don't know how the world works.

    I been bullied massively by my brother and father who are both deceased now and quite honestly don't miss much for what they did and said to me when I was a child, teen and as a adult.

    Try day in and day out of your life being bullied and teased being called a white boy in a black dominant school being beaten by the black kids everyday when clearly your not, I'm Puerto Rican who is light skinned with a mother and brother who is dark skin and a father who was light skin. One kid actually had the nerve to sign my book, Dear David your not white, your tan. Really !!!! The ignorance of black ghetto kids all my life.

    Being told I should be ashamed of myself that I don't speak Spanish, that I'm a fake Puerto Rican. Having my father beat the crap outta me in front of everyone in school and in the neighborhood because I didn't do my homework or stuck up for myself in school. Being told I'm a nobody, good for nothing, a ruin of the family, faggot. Clearly when I'm not, I guess they were if they tried to implement that in my head.

    Having people tell me I should join a union job when clearly they don't take advantage of their own dental plan themselves.

    I have many pet peeves even when comes to Co workers. Co workers asking me to borrow money when we just got our checks to asking me if I'm going to lunch to bring them back something, sorry my break is my break. Even not being relieved on time gets to me, when a Co worker comes in, says I'm here, I'll be back going to get something to eat, get something to eat on your shift, it's time for me to go home.


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