The Original Meaning of Loser

Johnny recently showed me The Hustler on DVD a week or so ago. Bert Godron tells Fast Eddie that he’s a born loser. This prodded something in my brainmeats.

The word “loser” has been in use for a pretty long time, and we generally use it to refer to someone patently unsuccessful. I forget that it used to mean something a whole lot more specific than this. It referred to someone with the tendency to sabotage themselves while on the cusp of success, otherwise known as snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. It’s a certain kind of self-destructiveness that’s hard not only on the inflictor/inflictee but on those all around who want to see the person succeed.

In this film, Eddie is not an alcoholic, but I see this tendency a lot in alcoholics, sometimes even sober ones. Sometimes I think it’s a self-hatred. Sometimes I think it’s a fear of success, that it may set up the expectation of continued or escalating success that a person doesn’t feel like they can achieve.

I don’t know, and I don’t care to study it or ponder on it too much, because that goes into other people’s heads, and I’ve spent too much time there already.

It wouldn’t be like me to call someone a loser, but if I ever do, I want to be plain on what I’m talking about.