How would you reference an issue that is of little meaning but takes lots of attention for no apparent reason than just being the only thing that is interesting?

I've researched some words such as

  • Petty Fight
  • Bun Fight

Yet I don't feel these dwell well enough with the word I'm looking for.

  • 1
    "A storm in a teacup" is a common idiom. Since you don't appear to have done much research, I'll leave you to look up the meaning.
    – Mick
    Nov 3, 2016 at 20:53
  • 4
    Would you accept spat?
    – deadrat
    Nov 3, 2016 at 21:08
  • 2
    @Mick I've always heard "tempest in a teapot" (AmEng, BosWash corridor). "Storm in a teacup" is new to me; where is that used?
    – ab2
    Nov 3, 2016 at 21:49
  • 1
    @ab2 It's the BrE equivalent.
    – Mick
    Nov 3, 2016 at 21:56
  • 4
    "Spat" or "tiff" describes a small (though possibly heated) disagreement.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 3, 2016 at 22:13

2 Answers 2


In my field we use the word "bikeshed" or "bikeshedding" to describe this -- a reference to Parkinson's law of triviality whereby, for example

...a fictional committee whose job was to approve the plans for a nuclear power plant [spent] the majority of its time on discussions about relatively minor but easy-to-grasp issues, such as what materials to use for the staff bike-shed, while neglecting the proposed design of the plant itself, which is far more important but also a far more difficult and complex task.


My choice for a single word is "bickering." If you need to stretch it out a bit, say "continuous bickering."

1. to engage in petulant or peevish argument; wrangle: The two were always bickering.


1 Argue about petty and trivial matters. ‘couples who bicker over who gets what from the divorce’


  • Generally, "bickering" is used to imply an ongoing low-level conflict, vs a short-lived "spat".
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 4, 2016 at 12:23

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