Exploring the Size and Scope of Houston’s ‘Houston, We Have a Problem’ Problem

EXPLORING THE SIZE AND SCOPE OF HOUSTON’S ‘HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM’ PROBLEM How many more times will this city have to experience major flooding events before Houston can evoke an alternate image powerful enough to supplant the catch-phrase with which annoying outsiders regularly refer to it? The “Houston, we have a problem” line popularized by the movie Apollo 13, write the WSJ’s Miguel Bustillo and Erin Ailworth, is “annoying to many Houstonians, and others, who consider it the laziest of clichés.Houston, we have a problem’ resurfaced with regularity when the Astros nearly squandered the ALCS series against the Yankees last week before pulling it out in the decisive Game 7. Should a problem arise in the World Series between the Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston knows it will be subjected to ‘Houston, we have a problem,’ again and again.” The writers briefly profile Snapstream’s Ugh Houston Twitter account — which devotes itself to surfacing hackneyed media mentions of the city — before conducting some research and analysis of their own: “A LexisNexis search shows that ‘Houston, we have a problem’ has shown up in more than 12,000 news articles and broadcasts since 1982, and on at least 10 occasions in this newspaper. Part of the reason it is so overused, Houstonians suspect, is that it is one of the few things most Americans can readily recall about the nation’s fourth-largest city, which is home to 2.3 million.” [Wall Street Journal; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Jennifer Alderman

3 Comment

  • The local economy doesn’t need to just diversify, it needs to somehow add on some entirely new sectors and qualities of life. Otherwise better get used to hearing the phrase quite a bit.

  • Oy. If you put a bit of thought into the phrase you might remember that it was a clarion call for help in which “Houston” solved the problem and was held the hero. Hackneyed yes. Annoying no. Try living in Cleveland, Ohio where “the mistake by the lake” gets repeatedly uttered.

  • Everyone knows that this quote is completely false because what was actually said by Commander Lovell was:

    “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” -or, to remove the contraction- “Houston, we have had a problem.”

    I’m guessing someone decided to just leisurely plagiarize American history and hack out the “had” in the sentence to give us what we have now.