27 February 2007

Lexico II

This word has been blipping on my word radar recently: problematic.

From CBC's 'Ideas' last night: "This formulation of a 'spirit-based' tolerance is problematic."

Overheard at a UBC bar: "He has a problematic relationship with alcohol."

It's a usable word, I suppose—as good as worrisome, uncertain, or dangerous. And if my ear is right, it's now in critical vogue. But there's something I don't like about it.

I think it's that it steers the sentence toward thick nouns and adjectives; the verb is almost certain to be mute.

Thoughts?

(Alf, please skip.)

2 comments:

zp said...

Check your OED for the nuances. And the noun form. You can, I'm sure, imagine for yourself the factions that support the various uses of the word.

I don't like it because a lot of times pop media just leaves it at that. Whatever it is, it's problematic. They do not say how or why or for whom . . . Obscures more than it tells.

JJB said...

B. n. Sociol. Something that constitutes a problem, or an area of difficulty in a particular field of study.

The noun form strikes me as less annoying, although of course less broadly useful. My complaint is the same as your: problematic is a hedge, usually.

Which factions do you see as being most enthusiastic about it?