"situation": (Was) issues; the X from Hell

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sun Dec 10 18:52:12 UTC 2006

Again FWIW, I first noticed this usage on a TV show about 20 years ago, more or less.  A space alien was radioing, "We have a situation here ! " He sounded very perturbed.

  When I mentioned "situation = emergency" to Dr. Jerry Ball, he replied instantly that he'd heard it many times in the U.S. Army in the early to mid '70s.

  It's not in OED yet, but the stylistic objection to "crisis situation" is mentioned. In my experience, it was "emergency situation" that was usually cited as the prime offender, though it is unlikely that such cautions affected space-alien or other spoken usage to any considerable degree.


Alison Murie <sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Alison Murie
Subject: Re: issues; the X from Hell

>Similar to psychobabblish "issue" is the pejoration or adapting of the
>word "situation" to mean 'crisis, dangerious development'. When I first
>started noticing that usage on TV cop shows a few years ago, it seemed
>like (maybe) a ploy to sound un-panicky in an urgent radio or telephone
>(Has this already been discussed here?)
>---- Original message ----
>>Date: Sat, 9 Dec 2006 09:21:40 -0800
>>From: "Arnold M. Zwicky"
>>Subject: issues; the X from Hell
>>the latest Funny Times (Dec. 2006) has an excerpt (p. 18) from Jon
>>Winokur's Encyclopedia Neurotica (2004), with two items of local
>>1. the entry:
>>Grade-A _psychobabble_ for what used to be called "problems."
"Condition" is another of these. All these have a sort of euphemizing
effect, neutralizing the impact of actually stating what the problem,
crisis, or disease involved is. As usually happens with euphemisms, they
all tend to throw a shadow back on the substitute words.

~@:> ~@:> ~@:> ~@:>

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