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JIM ‘PAPPY’ MOORE: Language Wrangling

By Jim “Pappy” Moore

I accept that language evolves, and not always for the better.  We create new sayings and we abandon old ones, often for no reason other than a younger group of people has changed or contorted the language for their own purposes.

Today, companies don’t have problems.  They have issues.  If your internet goes out, they’re having an issue with something.  It’s not a problem.  It’s an issue.  Your service provider cannot provide the service they are contracted to provide.  It’s not their problem.  It’s your problem.  For them, it’s an issue.

It’s an “issue not a problem” is brought to you by the same people who replaced “you’re welcome” in the lexicon with “no problem.”  We were taught to say “thank you” when someone helps us who is being paid to serve us in that setting.  We were also taught to say “you’re welcome” when we are in the role of the clerk and someone has told us “thank you.”  But in the 1990s, some in society thought that “you’re welcome” was simply too demeaning to the speaker.  No, they needed a change.  A change to “no problem.”  

The “no problem” issue leads to another root cause of language being tortured to say new things in different ways.  If ever there was a word which has been waterboarded beyond repair, it is “respect.”  It made a great song by Aretha Franklin many decades ago.  It’s still an important concept.  But “respect” is used by people who demand it without having any reason to expect it.  Everyone who has a grievance with how they are addressed or treated claims to have an issue with lack of respect.  Many of them see no connection with their own behaviors and the respect (or lack of it) they garner.

Comedian Chris Rock has a great line aimed at fathers who brag about doing the absolute minimum as a parent:  “What you want, a cookie?!”  If a man wants to be respected as a father, he has to provide for his children, both economically and emotionally.  He can demand respect all he wants, but the respect follows the doing.  First be a good daddy, then wail if not given proper respect for doing so.

The television judge shows are rife with people who demand respect when their conduct does not justify it.  The phrase “he disrespected me” is practically mandatory for those who let down or encroach upon the good will of others.  It is run up the flag pole and everyone is expected to salute it, as if the demanding of the respect is sufficient reason to give it.

Part of this is simply language evolving and my looking backward in time, rather than forward.  I’m sure the generation before us rolled its eyes every time we said “groovy” back in the 1960s.  Even as I think about the word, I find it annoying, in retrospect.  There was a boy in my Speech Class in high school, John Chastain, the son of an English teacher, who ended every speech he gave with “groovy.”  Even then, I knew that was too much.

I want to say “thank you” for reading my column.  For those who say “no problem,” I say “hey, that’s not a problem, it’s an issue.”

Copyright 2023, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved. 

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