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I've noticed that the definite article is often omitted preceding the word "problem" in newspapers and magazines. Not in speech, but just in print. Here's an example:

Many politicians feel that taxes must be increased. Problem is, no one is willing to go on the record and say it.

(Instead of beginning the sentence with "the problem", "the" is simply omitted.)

What is the grammatical term for this recent trend? Has anyone else taken note of this phenomenon?

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2 Answers

It's an example of informal or idiomatic writing, whereby a vocal contraction finds its way into the written word. I'm not aware of a more specific term for it. This sort of thing appears in English (tabloid) newspapers, but only in op-ed pieces or reported speech -- I've never seen it used in reporting the news itself.

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When you say "The problem is..." you are being serious. When you say "Problem is..." you are attempting to sound informal, slightly condescending or ironic.

Compare

  • Problem is, he doesn't have any pants on!
  • The problem is, he doesn't have any pants on!

One is clearly in a joking or condescending tone, the other more matter-of-factly.

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