Friday, October 19, 2018

Really Stupid Words, Chapter Four

American English is a rich language. It’s always changing and evolving. New words and usages come and go. Many that come along are helpful. They clarify, they improve, they enhance and enrich.
But some are just plain stupid.
They obfuscate, they complicate, they confuse. They reveal a lack of understanding.
One that really sets my teeth on edge (sometimes) is “issue.”
Now, this one is complicated because “issue” is a word of many meanings. Magazines have issues. Births have issues. Politics has issues. Discussions have issues.
People do not.
Ninety-nine times out of ninety-nine, when someone says they have an “issue” what they really mean is they have a problem.
What’s wrong with “problem”? Everyone knows what it means and, unlike “issue,” it means pretty much one thing.
But some time ago, within my memory, someone in the psychobabble business decided “problem” was negative, and, well, we can’t have that, can we. If we use a word like “problem” that may have negative connotations, we might hurt someone’s feelings.
“Issue” is a whole ’nother thing. Nothing negative about “issue.” In fact, in this use, there’s really nothing much at all in the word “issue.”
Except that when it gets abused like this, I, for one, have a problem.


  1. Oh brother, have you nailed it yet again. The weaving together of the interloper and its proper, natural, good and right and true usage . . . well, once more my friend, you write subtle genius. Now from the sublime to the ridiculous, have I bothered you yet with my piece on -- near as I can tell -- the most minute-to-minute abused word in our gregarious language? I mutter of "awesome." Please let me know if you haven't yet been abused with that particular plod of my thinking. And I'll enforce it upon ye. Hope all is well, old bud. JB

    1. Thanks, John. "Awesome" is definitely on the list of really stupid words.

  2. The use of the word "issue" instead of "problem" has always irked me too, Rod. This must be because, as you say, the word "problem" has been deemed politically incorrect--way too negative. My other pet peeve is the use of adjectives where nouns should go. I

    1. Thanks for the comment, Nancy. Nouning verbs and verbing nouns is also all too common these days.