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Problems as issues, shards as food

Rosie Right

On June 1 Rosie wrote about a reader's complaint that nothing in our culture seemed to be a problem any more. Everything difficult or unpleasant has become an issue. Issue as a noun has as its sixth meaning (after such meanings as an outgoing) in the new edition of Webster's New World Dictionary, College Edition: " point; matter or question to be disputed or decided." But issue is often used as a euphemism for the second meaning of problem, which is "a question matter, situation or person that is perplexing or difficult."

A reader called Rosie's attention to this point again when he pointed out an interview with Richmond Police Chief Jerry Oliver in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Oct. 30). The newspaper reported an unfortunate event in which "a Richmond police officer shot and killed a seemingly crazed burglary suspect during a pitched battle ...

"'This guy had some real serious issues' Richmond police Chief Jerry Oliver said last night.' He was either on something or had mental problems.'"

Fortunately, Chief Oliver came around to using problems at the end of his statement, but it probably should have been used at the beginning of his remarks also.

It was encouraging to see an ad for the book "Jack Welch and the GE Way" by Robert Slater in which the publisher urged those who had business problems and wanted solutions to buy the book.

Uh-Oh. From Bruce Goldman has come a reproof for the misuse of words in one of our restaurant reviews. Apparently our writer, so swept away by the discussion of the food, forgot to think carefully about the meaning of the words in the review.

Mr. Goldman reminded us that the reviewer reported being served "shards of spinach" and that "the cook had evidently plated the pasta early..." This would mean that the restaurant serves "pieces of pottery, egg shell, snail shell, or other brittle substances ..." and our statement that "the cook had evidently plated the pasta early ..." would mean that the restaurant covers or overlays its pasta with some kind of metallic coating.

The criticism is valid; in fact, when Rosie looked up shard in the Oxford English Dictionary, she was horrified to discover that shard can mean bits of cow dung! Fortunately, this is listed as an obsolete usage.

Let Rosie hear from you by telephone (358-0825), fax (355-9089), letter 1118 W. Main St., Richmond, Va. 23220) or e-mail (

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