David M. Brown's Blog

August 13, 2011

Your problem is not an issue. It’s a problem.

Filed under: Language and grammar — davidmbrowndotcom @ 9:33 pm

One problem that can happen in life is that persons call a problem an “issue” in order to be circumlocutious and euphemistic. They’ve been taught, perhaps by the soggy usage of others, that it is a horrific indelicacy to state simply the nature of the circumstances besetting them. They have a negative mental attitude who believe that the only way to have a positive mental attitude is to obfuscate and befog the facts of matters.

If your toilet is busted, it’s a problem, not an issue. Don’t scream at your plumber that you’ve got a real issue with your toilet. Neither you and your toilet nor you and your plumber are going to appear on the “PBS News Hour” to debate its reluctance to flush properly. How to solve the problem, the persistence of the problem, the consequences of the problem may become an issue. If you and your spouse keep discussing the problem with the toilet, perhaps the problem of the toilet is an issue for you, as well as a topic. But please don’t scream at your plumber that your toilet is a real topic now, it’s become quite a topic and it needs to be fixed.

If your toilet is no longer a topic of conversation and no longer an issue for your and your spouse, it may still be busted. It may still be a problem. But it may be the sort of problem that you are sullenly ignoring. You’re not making an issue out of it any more, but there it is, still not flushing. It’s a problem. It’s bad enough that it’s a plumbing problem. Please don’t also make it a linguistic problem.


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