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Q: What's the origin of "issues"? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: What's the origin of "issues"?
Category: Relationships and Society > Relationships
Asked by: nautico-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 31 Aug 2003 08:56 PDT
Expires: 30 Sep 2003 08:56 PDT
Question ID: 250766
The word "issues," as in "she has issues," fascinates me. It's a term
of my son's generation. When I was his age (28), we'd refer to "hang
ups." Then later in life we'd talk about someone's "baggage," which I
would define as the aggregate of "issues" one carries with him and
with which, therefore, others must cope in any relationship with the
baggagee. What's the origin of "issues" when used in this sense? Are
issues bigger and more problematic than hang ups? (These are the kinds
of things one ponders in retirement!)
Subject: Re: What's the origin of "issues"?
Answered By: pinkfreud-ga on 31 Aug 2003 12:47 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
It is often difficult, if not impossible, to trace slang phrases to
their sources. I've gathered some material on "issues," but I doubt
that a final, definitive answer to the origin of the phrase can be

According to an interesting page of "College Slang Around the World,"
the use of "issues" in this sense dates at least to 1997:

"issues (n) (see, have issues) 
  Problems.  That girl got a lot of issues. [Centre College, Danville,
  Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona, CA, 1997]"

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

This site seems to indicate that a similar use of "issues" originated
in computer jargon:

"Issues 1. (n.) - Gateway slang a very stupid computer problem.
Solutions to issues involve plugging in keyboards, turning on the
power, unplugging the surge supressor from itself, and other simple
solves. See also Clients. 2. (n.) - Liz and KT slang any past event
which adversely affects an individual's ability to cope with a current
crises. Example: Because of being stood up for a date once, Jack has
issues with being on time."

No Thanks, I Already Have a Penguin

Here's a brief discussion of the phrase that points out the subtle
differences in usage:

We have read your report and have issues with the way you have
analyzed the data.
'to have issues'' can be used in two different ways. In the sense in
the above example and url, it is having some disagreement with the
subject. In this sense, a plural use is fine (as in both examples).
Alternatively, 'to have issues' can also refer to personal
psychological baggage, and is usually therefore about individuals
(e.g., but I wouldn't rule out families with
issues, etc..

Link Everything Online

In any case, many dictionaries have noticed the new meanings of

"A misgiving, objection, or complaint: had issues with the plan to
change the curriculum...

Informal. A personal problem or emotional disorder: The teacher
discussed the child's issues with his parents.

Here is a very entertaining article about the "newspeak" use of the
word "issues":

The Holland Sentinel

The most amusing thing I came across while researching this issue (or
perhaps I should say, this "issue" issue) was a page which, under the
heading "Euphemisms: the cowardly subspecies of loathsome words,"
described the slang use of "issue" as "blame-deflecting psychobabble."
I certainly won't take issue with that.

Loathsome Words

Regarding the matter of whether issues are more problematic than hang
ups, this is a judgment call. Many young folks today seem to be so
preoccupied with their problems that they take a perverse delight in
them. When I was a college student, in the 1960s, "hang ups" were
something to be avoided and outgrown. I get the feeling that today's
"issues" are something to be cultivated, as if the presence of a
multitude of "issues" may indicate great sensitivity and depth. But
that may be just my wrinkles speaking. ;-)

Search terms used:

"have issues" + "slang"
"have an issue" + "slang"
"issue meaning problem"
"problems as issues"

This was a most enjoyable question to research. If anything I've said
is unclear, or if a link doesn't work for you, please request
clarification; I'll be glad to offer further assistance before you
rate my answer.

Best wishes (and no issues)
nautico-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
An absolutely wonderful answer. I can tell you suffer from a minimum
number of issues!

Subject: Re: What's the origin of "issues"?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 31 Aug 2003 14:23 PDT
Many thanks for the kind words, the five-star rating and the five
dollar tip!

On the matter of "having issues," I forgot to mention something. My
98-year-old grandmother once told me that, when she was young, the
phrase "to have an issue" was a euphemism for menstruation, as in
"Maude cannot go swimming today because she has an issue."

Subject: Re: What's the origin of "issues"?
From: nautico-ga on 31 Aug 2003 15:32 PDT
I love it! (This could lead to a similar question re the origin of "I
love it," but not to worry, it won't. On the other hand, I could ask
you whence cometh "not to worry." I could!)
Subject: Re: What's the origin of "issues"?
From: marbles12078-ga on 17 Sep 2003 15:42 PDT
I went to hampshire college in 1994, and the term "issues" was used at
that point... i think that it could possibly predate this, but I do
recall seeing it used in a nationally syndicated comic strip in
1997... so if it originated in 1997 it spread faster than most

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