Chip on your shoulder

A chip on your shoulder is a metaphor which means that you are habitually negative, combative or have a hostile attitude, usually because of a deep resentment or long-held grievance.  The term chip on your shoulder seems to have first been used to describe the Royal Navy Dockyards’ shipwrights’ entitlement to offcuts of timber. At the end of the day, the shipwrights took home these chips on their shoulders. In the eighteenth century, the allotment of wood became too costly for the shipyard and the officers began to limit the amount of timber a shipwright could take home. This led to fights concerning the size of the chips on their shoulders.

Later, in nineteenth-century America, a confrontational young man would place a chip on his shoulder and dare another to knock it off. If the challenged man knocked the chip off the shoulder, a fight would commence. Now, the term chip on your shoulder has come to describe a combative person carrying a grievance.

Examples

Jordan Spieth has a green jacket in his closet, a silver U.S. Open trophy on his mantle and a chip on his shoulder. (USA Today)

And besides, not every kid who comes from an alcoholic home grows up with a chip on his shoulder the size of a sequoia. (The Austin American-Statesman)

The murders of 24-year-old Alison Parker and her 27-year-old cameraman, Adam Ward, by a deranged and disgruntled man whose shoulder chip was as big as a boulder took me back to my early days in the business. (The Washington Times)

An investigator hired by Kleiner Perkins to investigate legal complaints said John Doerr told him Ellen Pao had “a female chip on her shoulder.” (The Business INsider)

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