I'm looking for a word or, more likely, a phrase--along the lines of "Hobson's choice," "busman's holiday," or "Pyrrhic victory"--to describe a problem that isn't really a problem. An example might be the "problem" of having too much evidence for something you are trying to prove.

"First-world problem" comes pretty close to what I'm looking for, but I'd appreciate a phrase that telegraphs a more focused irony and is perhaps a bit more sophisticated.


3 Answers 3


I recently heard this described as a champagne problem.

from the Online Slang Dictionary:

champagne problem noun

a problem that, in reality, demonstrates one's good fortune.


For the 'too much [evidence] ...' example, a fitting expression is

an embarrassment of riches.

From CDO:

an embarrassment of riches [formal]:

so many good things or ​people that it is ​impossible to ​decide which of them you ​want

More generally,

'I wish I had your problems' (as bib suggests)

(meaning 'I wish I [merely] had [what you consider to be] {your} problems')

is used. A clear example is this from metrolyrics:

He said I wish I had your problems cause they're

Nothing compared to mine.

(though I wouldn't use this source very often).

  • Good answer; thanks. However I think "embarrassment" used to be not so negative (as perhaps it wasn't when this expression was coined)
    – SAH
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 18:46

Perhaps a term for the result rather than the cause is of interest ...

If you are working on a problem that isn't really a problem you could end up doing busy work.

From wikipedia:

Busy work (also referred to as make-work and busywork) can refer to activity that is undertaken to pass time and stay busy but in and of itself has no actual value. [...]

Busy work also occurs in business, military and other settings, in situations where people may be required to be present but may lack the opportunities, skills or need to do something more productive.

People may engage in busy work to maintain an appearance of activity, in order to avoid criticism of being inactive or idle.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.