What others say: A problem with 'issues'

The Kansas City Star

Published: Wednesday, May 1 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Issues? An online dictionary produced the customary meaning, namely: "An important topic or problem for debate or discussion."

Charles Krupa, AP

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The following editorial appeared recently in the Kansas City Star:

The computer-scanning software finished and announced its result: 39 issues detected.

Issues? An online dictionary produced the customary meaning, namely: "An important topic or problem for debate or discussion."

Somewhere along the line this straightforward little word went rogue and began encroaching on turf formerly held by problems.

If our ear is correct, the seeds were planted among the usual lovers of irony. They slipped in the little word when they sought to appear humorously detached and understated. If an unbalanced diner erupted over a lousy steak and punched out the chef, it could be said that "Efrem had issues with the menu," and people would smile. The new use for the little word put a light gloss on stressful moments.

But soon the little word was squirting all over the place and the original irony was lost and what you have now is a weak, cringing indirectness. The linguistic real estate held by once-proud problems is being engorged by a wimpy upstart.

It's gotten so bad that when you go to the doctor, they want to know what your issues are. You're tempted to fire back that you didn't go there to discuss politics, but that would be rude. They might even begin to have issues with you.

Let us not forget that problems still stands ready to do its job in clear, English sentences. The dependable old guy is up there on the shelf, right inside your head.

We can still save problems. It will take some doing, but if we work together, we can send the invading issues, clear aggressor in this fight, back to its own turf — where it belongs.

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