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“First World Problems”

So far this year, my favorite new expression is “First World Problems.” A First World Problem is an irritation you can only complain about if all your needs are already met.

Know Your Meme, which has an exhaustive page about the origin of this phrase, defines “First World Problems” like this:

“Frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries. It is typically used as a tongue-in-cheek comedic device to make light of trivial inconveniences.”

I first heard about the phrase in June, from this music-comedy video by Funnyz on YouTube:

There’s also a very active thread on Reddit about it, which currently includes such entries as:

  • “The cup holder in my car won’t hold my supersized drink.”
  • “The chips I’m eating just prevented me from hearing an important part of the TV show I’m watching.”
  • “I have too many spoons.”
  • “The ‘Stop Time’ button on my microwave doesn’t actually stop time.”

The first known use of the phrase, according to Know Your Meme, is in an obscure Matthew Good Band song from 1995 called “Omissions of the Omen.” A Tumblr blog called The Real First World Problems has been running since 2008. But the phrase really exploded online in recent months.

Once I caught myself griping to a friend that the bank ATM near me is always stocked with brand-new 20s, so the bills stick together when I try to buy something. In mid-sentence, I suddenly realized what I was saying and apologized: “Sorry. That’s absolutely the stupidest complaint in the universe.” I’ve realized that so many things I whine about on a daily basis—dropped calls on my smartphone, taxi drivers who don’t know their way around Manhattan, hot water that’s too hot—are absolutely First World Problems.

Once you start using the phrase, it’s hard to stop. Soon, you’ll start calling out your friends whenever they complain about modern-day inconveniences. They’ll get annoyed at you for being a prig who interferes with their need to complain about minor problems. First World Problem!

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Language

One comment

  1. Tanya says:

    I prefer calling it a “white whine.” It is more crude, which could be arguably a benefit or detractor of the phrase. But, pushing me towards its use is that it is shorter.

    I’m sure you are familiar with: http://whitewhine.com/ White Whine: A collection of first world problems updated daily.

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