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There was the following sentence in New York Times’ (May 3rd) article titled, “Complaining is hard to avoid, but try to do it with a purpose,” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/04/your-money/the-satisfaction-and-annoyance-of-complaining.html?_r=0 And I stumbled on the ending phrase “Lose the whiny entitled air.”

“Instead of using a complaint as a conversation opener, he (Will Bowen, an ordained minister who has written the book “A Complaint Free World”) suggested, “talk to them about something good or positive.”

He is not arguing that you can’t note when something is wrong. He says you should just do it directly in a neutral manner to the person responsible, not to everyone around you and not with a voice of outrage.

“Say, ‘The soup is cold, and could you warm it up,’ ” said Mr. Bowen, “Not, ‘how dare you serve me cold soup!’ ” Lose the whiny entitled air.

As I wasn't able to understand what “Lose the whiny entitled air" means, and its connection with the preceding line, I first looked for the idiom “lose the air” in both Cambridge and Oxford online dictionaries in vain.

Questions:

  1. Is “Lose the whiny entitled air,” here an imperative form? Can we order someone to “lose the air”?

  2. If this is not an imperative form, what is the subject of this phrase?

  3. How is “Lose the whiny entitled air” connected with the preceding sentence, “Say, ‘the soup is cold, and could you warm it up,’ ”? To me it doesn’t flow smoothly.

  4. In essence, what does “Lose the whiny entitled air” mean?

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What you'll want to look up is "air of entitlement". The author just shortened that up to "entitled air". To "take on an air" generally means to affect an attitude of something...superiority, indifference, arrogance, to name a few. So the implication is that being considerate and direct when the need to complain arises is a better strategy than to appear "whiny" and as a spoiled brat. –  Kristina Lopez May 5 '13 at 13:16
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This is related to the idiom of “putting on airs”, which perhaps you are unfamiliar with. –  tchrist May 5 '13 at 14:57
    
@tchrist. I know the idiom, ‘put on airs / assume airs,’ but I’m somewhat uncomfortable with the verb “Lose” used in an imperative form here. Although there are extensive usages of ‘lose’ as a verb – OALED registers 12 different usages – I take ‘lose’ basically for an opposite to ‘gain.’ If “Lose the whiny entitled air” means ‘Don’t put on the whiny entitled airs,” or “Don’t assume arrogant airs,” isn’t it better and more natural to say so rather than using the verb, “lose,” though it utterly belongs to a freedom of the writer’s choice. –  Yoichi Oishi May 5 '13 at 16:59
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When you use lose in the imperative, it takes the meaning get rid of (deliberately lose). –  Bradd Szonye May 5 '13 at 18:08
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Re qn #3: One would say 'Lose the whiny entitled air.' after someone said 'How dare you serve me cold soup.'. Two alternatives, one has an entitle air but the other doesn't. That sentence is semantically complex, hypotheticals, judgements, and multiple points of view. –  Mitch May 5 '13 at 20:02
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Q1: Yes, this is an imperative. Just like "Shut the door!" A "whiny entitled air" is a type of bad attitude, so another way to say this is: "Lose the attitude!"

Q2: The subject of the sentence is, of course, implied "You".

Q3: Will Bowen is advising people to "complain with a purpose". In the sentence "how dare you serve me cold soup!", the speaker's only purpose is to complain and express her displeasure and to imply that this should never have happened to me (The italicized words express entitlement: the speaker feels that she deserves better treatment). Complaining with a purpose in a neutral tone of voice is saying "The soup is cold, and could you warm it up". The purpose is to have the waiter bring her hot soup so that she can enjoy eating it.

Q4: “Lose the whiny entitled air” means that the speaker should complain without whining about how cold the soup is. The speaker should express a desire to have the problem remedied (to have the cold soup heated) rather than a desire to express her outrage (the feeling that she's entitled to (privileged to have) perfect service and that mistakes like this should never happen to her because somehow she's special).

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What is your view to my comment on the use of "Lose" to @tchrist above? –  Yoichi Oishi May 5 '13 at 17:13
    
@Yoichi: Although I agree that it would be clearer to spell out the meaning of "lose" by saying something like "Stop whining and putting on airs", it's not necessary when the listener/reader is a native speaker of English: "Lose X" in "Lose the whiny entitled air" & "Lose the attitude" is a standard American idiom. I don't know about other brands of English, though. M-W online gives this for lose: "11: to free oneself from : get rid of [dieting to lose weight]". It's not tactful, but it's common & clear to Americans. –  user21497 May 5 '13 at 23:55
    
So Pope Francis told Pope Emeritus Benedict to totally lose his eye-rolling and sighing loud in a meeting. –  Yoichi Oishi May 6 '13 at 21:08
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@Yoichi: As it turns out, that was a humor blog. I didn't realize it for two reasons. First, I wasn't aware of who the writer is (a humor writer, but not as funny or obviously a humorist as Dave Barry). Second, I didn't read the entire thing the first time. Third, media writing standards have deteriorated for many reasons over the past few decades, so who's to say that a Vatican correspondent wouldn't write like that, especially when most of what's written about isn't what's experienced first-hand but on Twitter, Facebook, & media news feeds? Who knows what the Popes do? I don't care. –  user21497 May 6 '13 at 23:50
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However, your sentence is like so totally Americanese (I despise that register, but many Americans find it normal & actually use it). Clear as crystal to me, but I have to slap my head for being temporarily stupid enough to be taken in by the credibility of the scenario. Those Vatican dictators say & do so many other outrageous things every day that nothing attributed to them would surprise me. Maybe I want to believe the worst about them (of course I do!), so I did. Mea culpa! –  user21497 May 6 '13 at 23:58
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(Converting a potentially ephemeral comment into an actual answer so it sticks around.)

This is a slightly different sense of the verb lose than merely the opposite of gain. It means get rid of here.

Oxford Dictionaries Online gives this sense of the word:

North American informal get rid of (an undesirable person or thing): lose that creep!

Notice the “North American informal” label. It appears that this particular usage may not be well-known in the rest of the world. Maybe that’s why it’s new to you.

So no, lose doesn’t mean the opposite of gain here. “Lose the attitude!” is a common informal— albeit borderline-rude — direct command, and the verb is normal there. You also find it in parallel formulations like “Lose the girlfriend” or “Lose the baseball cap”, where it means get rid of something or other.

A command telling somebody to lose something is pretty curt or brusque, maybe even too aggressive for many situations. This may be more true in polite, well-spoken/mannered society than in common speech.

I doubt an ambassador would say it, but a bouncer at a club certainly might.

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