What is an Issue?


wiseGEEK Writing Contest

An issue used to be a problem. People had drinking problems, eating problems, relationship problems, grass-growing problems, health problems, math-challenged problems, computer problems, arthritis problems. Nowadays the above and everything else that used to be problems are issues. What happened to problems?

Problems have nearly left the English language. They are becoming extinct, like crippled, retarded and close. Close as in shut. Close has transformed itself into closure.

Problems are things to be solved. Problems pose challenges. Issues don't require solutions. They are just there. We somehow don't think we need to deal with issues.

Issues sound better than problems. An s is a soft sound. A b is a hard sound. We like soft sounds rather than hard sounds.

Issues have also replaced disagreements. It appears it's nicer to say you have an issue with what someone says rather than you disagree. As in, "I take issue with your stance on gun control."

It used to be people talked about things, but now the things have become issues. "He has a lot of things to deal with. He's busy." Substitute issues for things. Or: "She has a thing about halter tops being worn to school." Substitute issue. Or: "There are a lot of things that need to be resolved before we can move forward." Substitute issues.

The old meaning of issue was to bring forth, emerge, come to light, circulate. "I have the July issue of Cat Fancy." "The post office is issuing new stamps with a picture of an airedale."

An even older meaning is progeny. "She has issued forth a male." Now we merely say: "It's a boy."

Issue has replaced fuss. "Stop making a fuss about my not cleaning the garage." Substitute: "You're making the garage too big an issue."

We no longer issue orders. We give orders. It's simplier to say: "I'm giving you an order. Clean your room. Now." The government still issues orders though. "The town issued an ordinance that there shall be a ten o'clock curfew." When government gives orders it issues them. It sounds more governmental to issue rather than give. Government doesn't give us much or anything except orders. It does provide tax forms free of charge.

Policemen and women issue traffic tickets. If you have an issue (disagreement) with the cause of the issuance of said ticket, you'll probably lose your case. Radar doesn't lie.

This is not a monumental problem, but softening words and phrases dilutes their meanings. If there's a problem, say so. If someone dies, say he or she dies rather than passes away. If a man is killed say he's killed, not that he's a casualty.

I issue this essay for your consideration.

submitted by Barbara Leedom