I'm not going to sit here and try and hand down language like a mandate from heaven—carved with perfect, inflexible rules on a stone tablet. Words have been thrown together in a kind of stewpot of communication ever since our throats allowed us to grunt. So who am I to tell Cowboys CB Anthony Brown that maybe his new 'potato chip on your shoulder' tattoo doesn't mean what he thinks it means?
Nevertheless, a quick history lesson here (because, yes, I was curious): a "chip on the shoulder" refers to an ancient right of shipwrights in 17th century Royal Navy Dockyards, which permitted daily allowances of wood scraps to workers. Shit got real heated when taxpayers saw that workers were hauling away too much of their government-subsidized wood, and so authorities asked workers to carry their (wood) chips under their arms as opposed to on their shoulders. Because you simply can't carry as much under your arm (duh). Essentially, it was a way that The Man could regulate workers. But one day, some shipwright dude started to walk out with his wood on his shoulder, and hella people were shouting at him 'under your arm!' but dude wouldn't budge. Dude was carrying those chips on his shoulder because fuck that person trying to limit his wood collection. Possibly the origin story.
Then, much later, this 'chip on the shoulder' expression got some real traction in 19th century U.S., when Mark Twain made reference to it in a Tom Sawyer story. People by that point were placing a physical wood chip on their shoulder as a sign that they wanted to brawl. Like, knock that chip off my shoulder. I fucking dare you.
Anyway. Enter Anthony Brown some 120 years later with a reference to Lays:
Yesterday Brown posted a photo of his new ink: a ruffled up potato chip on his shoulder paired with the number 189—his draft pick number in 2016. And—again, I'm not here to colonize language—it's a nice nod to being a halfway Mr. Irrelevant, with the 2017 Draft ending next week. It's a way to say "fuck you, 189th pick, look at me now—yeah, I've got a (potato) chip on my shoulder about it." We all know how Brown's story turned out, seeing more snaps than 2016's No. 4 pick Ezekiel Elliott last season (though it is offense vs. defense we're talking here). He's got mad promise—even if he doesn't really care to distinguish his wood chips from his Pringles. That's just how language works, motherfuckers. Fight me about it.
[h/t BR's Marcus Mosher]