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.


(Alf, please skip.)


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?