In the post Muppet and turkey roulade haze of a not-quite-Christmas dinner, a friend who’s aff studying in America right now expressed her exasperation with the word #problematic - an easy academic place-holder that gestures in the direction of a complex argument without bothering to do any of the actual work required to make the critique in question.
I laughed, of course, being more used to encountering this word in yer bog standard Internet discourse than hearing it come out the mouth of perma-bluffing seminar bores.
Plus, also, once you’ve seen Jim Werdsmiffery do his loudspeaker-hands "#PROBLEMATIC!" thing in person it’s neither plausible or desirable to hear it in any other voice (you’re just going to have to trust me on that one, it sounds [and is!] goofy but it’s also 100% charming).
Anyway, back at our not-quite-Christmas dinner we had a good we chat about the problem with #problematic while our stomachs tried to recover, and since then it’s been a running joke between us - a description for everything from from an awkward lid on a jam jar to a poorly timed Elton John cameo.
My academic friend is back over in the States now, and she emailed me last month to report that one of her American friends had come home from a date an offered a one word summary of her evening. As you will no doubt have guessed, this word was “problematic”, and if you can understand (if not quite share) my friend’s amusement, try to imagine the bafflement of her poor friend and the awkward scene that played out as my friend essentially tried to narrate the contents of this post in real time to a totally bemused audience.