July 23, 2016

L.A. TIMES: Why the weasel word ‘problematic’ should be banned.

Urban Dictionary, that indispensable compendium of vernacular terms and usages, defines “problematic” as “a corporate-academic weasel word used mainly by people who sense that something may be oppressive, but don’t want to do any actual thinking about what the problem is or why it exists.” . . .

What’s more, as I’ve observed it, “problematic” tends to get used in inverse proportion to the seriousness of the offense.

We don’t hear “problematic” applied to police shootings of unarmed black men or to legislation preventing transgender people from using certain bathrooms. (The operative description of those issues would be, respectively, “actual problem” and “stupid.”) We certainly don’t hear it when the topic is international finance or the NFL because most people who use “problematic” can’t be bothered to follow such things. In the last few months the word has been applied, with some fanfare, to Calvin Trillin, who published a poem about Chinese food in the New Yorker that was deemed racist, and to Taylor Swift’s new boyfriend, whom fans are unhappy about because … I have no idea.

People who obsess over such things should be brutally mocked. It should be painful to be that stupid.

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