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I always understood 'address an issue' to mean fix or solve an issue. However, a colleague of mine questioned this today and after doing a web search it seems that the more correct or common meaning of this phrase is 'to bring under discussion'.

What is the accepted meaning/usage of this phrase?

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closed as off-topic by Kris, Josh61, choster, MrHen, FumbleFingers Jun 30 at 16:01

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The whole point of the phrase is that it is wishy-washy weasel wording. You don't promise the problem has been solved, and indeed do not so much as admit there was one. –  RegDwigнt Jun 30 at 9:40
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It can mean either, depending on the context (and/or the vagueness thereof, or how euphemistically the term is being used -- for instance, if your boss tells you "I think you need to address your appearance", it probably doesn't just mean "Think of some possible improvements to the way you look", it means "I'm politely ordering you to dress more smartly!"). "Address" as used by your colleague means "give attention to". –  Erik Kowal Jun 30 at 9:40
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@Kris - You may think that; millions of people think otherwise, including those who apply the verb less narrowly than your dictionary reference does. –  Erik Kowal Jun 30 at 10:43
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@Kris - No, your prescriptivist attitude is in error. –  Erik Kowal Jun 30 at 10:45
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um, and so language evolves? –  Mauritz Hansen Jun 30 at 10:45

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

At least one dictionary (ODO) has "Think about and begin to deal with (an issue or problem)" which is related to golfing usage:

3. Think about and begin to deal with (an issue or problem)
The second half of this book, once the history has been dealt with, addresses the problems of the present, issue by issue.

4. Golf Take up one’s stance and prepare to hit (the ball)

You might find a use like

The bug which caused the application to crash was addressed in Version 4.5.6

where the writer actually means fixed — or at least wants to give that impression — as there is no point in reporting that a bug has merely been considered unless it is actually fixed. I would call this a specialised use, a jargon word, as its intended meaning is an extension of "thought about".

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To address an issue is to direct attention to it. It doesn't mean the issue will be solved, only acknowledged. In a similar way in golf, when teeing off you address the ball before swinging. That doesn't mean you're actually going to hit it, and if you do it doesn't mean you'll do it very well. One can address an issue or problem, or in other words acknowledge, or focus on it for a long time. That doesn't in and of itself solve the problem. So I think your colleague is correct in saying that addressing an issue is 'to bring under discussion'.

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