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I feel this is best explained through examples.

  1. The internet constantly fights over the pronunciation over the file format "gif". Some say "gif", while others say "jif".

  2. People have very strong feelings about whether pineapple is a valid pizza topping.

In both cases, people feel very attached to their opinions. They will often feign (or take actual) offence to someone telling them they are wrong or have the opposite view. However, neither of these examples are really consequential to anyone in any way, and yet almost everyone seems to have a strong opinion on the matter. They are seemingly divisive for no reason whatsoever.

Is there a word or phrase that describes these meaningless issues and people's feelings towards them?

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6 Answers 6

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Such a situation might, among many other things, be described as a melodrama, a storm in a teacup, or much ado about nothing.

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Petty means wasting time on the trivial. The matter itself is trivial, and arguing over trivial matters is petty.

American Heritage® Dictionary (Fifth Edition):

Showing an excessive concern with unimportant matters or minor details, especially in a narrow-minded way: petty partisanship

Picky is casual, only slightly less harsh. See pedantic for a fancier word, also no compliment.

For a euphemism for all these synonyms, use exacting -- If I think you are petty, you will think you are being exacting, at most.

2http://www.thefreedictionary.com/pedantic

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  • I like this, but petty also has a very strong negative connotation. I wonder if there's a more neutral term with a similar meaning.
    – Pro Q
    Feb 27, 2017 at 22:28
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a mere trifle TFD

from trifle:

  1. Of little worth or importance. 2. Frivolous or foolish:
  2. a tiny bit; a small, unimportant matter;
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make a mountain out of a molehill

over-reactive, histrionic behaviour where a person makes too much of a minor issue

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Make_a_mountain_out_of_a_molehill

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In some cases, it might just be healthy verbal sparring, which is comparable to being assertive. (This video actually teaches children how to properly engage in arguments with bullies, as a means to defend themselves from verbal or emotional abuse.)

And in other cases, it might amount to contentious, mindless bickering (meaning quarreling or petulantly contending with words).

Occasionally, it is the work of a scold, which traditionally was illegal if women did it.

It all depends on the attitudes involved, although it is nearly always obnoxious, loud, and annoying.

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Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges described the Falklands War between the UK and Argentina in 1982 as:

"Two bald men fighting over a comb."

Many people may not be familiar with it, but it's something I'll never forget. It's one of my favourite quotes ever made, both for its wit and the condemnation of us stupid humans.

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