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All the haters

August 31, 2012

I’ve recently, and probably very belatedly, become aware of the widespread use of the word hater – often used in the plural. People who use it seem to mean someone who hates everyone, but it’s not synonymous with misanthrope. (People don’t self-identify as haters, although they might self-identify as misanthropes.) The hatred of a hater is much more active, finding direct and repeated expression, usually on the internet; and the person who accuses others of being haters is usually the recipient, or a friend or supporter of the recipient, of the hateful comments. Just now I googled ‘all the haters’ and got 146 MILLION results. What’s going on here?

I first noticed the word in 2009, but I thought at the time it was an aberration, a one-off. It was when Serena Williams lost it at the US Open and abused a line-judge, accusing her of being a ‘hater’. It sounded distinctly odd to me. Of course you can form an agent-noun out of just about any verb in English, by adding the suffix -er: wrestler, worker, wanker etc. But the nouns formed in this way usually stem from action verbs, not stative verbs – ie not verbs which refer to a state or condition, rather than to actions which can be performed on discrete occasions. (It would sound odd to call someone a knower, for instance, since knowing is a mental state rather than an action one does.) And hate is a stative verb.

When a stative verb is used in this way it’s in a very specific context: if someone is a believer it means they believe in something in particular, eg a specific religion, not that they believe everything they are told. Or you can call someone a lover, but that doesn’t mean they love everyone; they love or make love to one specific person, or a series of specific people. But hater seems to be used in a generalised way. A hater hates everyone, all the time, vociferously, as a kind of lifestyle choice – that’s the implication.

When I first read the report of Serena Williams’ outburst I thought hater was a clumsy coinage of her own – her idea being that the line-judge had only called the shot out because she hated Williams, which must in turn be because she hated everyone. But Williams didn’t make it up; she was just an early adopter, and now everyone’s using it.

Except me. I still have mixed feelings about it. It still sounds wrong to me, as if language has been slightly twisted to make it do something unnatural. There’s something self-righteous about it, too, and often a hint of self-deception in its use: if someone criticises me (or someone I like) then they must be some sort of crazy hater, because no reasonable person would ever find anything to criticise about me or those I like! (A bit like men who assume that any woman who doesn’t fancy them must be a lesbian.)

Then again – words do arise because a need for them is felt, and there certainly does seem to be a profusion of people on the internet whose criticisms of others are personal, vicious, designed to hurt, and apparently driven by irrational generalised hatred.

So I’m in two minds. Perhaps we do need a word for the person who does this sort of thing, but I don’t like the one that’s been chosen. Then again, what other word could we use?

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4 Comments
  1. I’ve always understood hater to be specific in the hate it’s describing – it comes up a lot in hip-hop, but used to mean someone who hates hip-hop in general, or possibly a specific artist or scene or something, & whose criticisms are therefore not well-founded (but not because they hate everything).
    By the way, you’ve written “wamker” for “wanker”.

    • Thanks, as usual, for proofreading. I didn’t know hip-hoppers used the term about anyone who doesn’t like hip-hop but it rather reinforces my dislike of the word and the self-justifying way it is used (‘You don’t like my music so you must be a hater…’)

  2. Joel permalink

    http://www.pp2g.tv/vZnB6Y3c_.aspx

    I think this video ↑ will help shed some light on the concept of Haters™

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