Q: This has been bugging me for some time so I finally had to ask your opinion. Your paper’s classified ads has a section 21, “Situations Wanted.” To me “Situations Wanted” means you are LOOKING for a situation which needs filling. However, most of your ads are placed by people who need help, not those looking for a place to show their skills. I would welcome a correction if I am on the wrong track.
B.J., of New Athens
A: Your question reminded me of a recent Clorox advertisement in which a young boy in a bathroom is frantically trying to undo his stubborn belt so he can answer the pressing call of nature. In desperation, he finally yells, “Mom, we have a situation!”
So although it sounds like a classic Charlie Brown wishy-washy answer, I would argue you can interpret the term both ways. Rather than strictly a synonym for “job,” the word “situation” is more vague. One definition in Webster’s is simply “a combination of circumstances at any given time.” So as a worker, you want a situation in which you can serve as a nanny, landscaper, etc. But I as a homeowner also want to bring about “a combination of circumstances” in which someone will care for my child or rake my yard.
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Two respected dictionaries seem to agree with my fence-straddling position. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “Situations Wanted” is “the name of the pages in a newspaper, website, etc., where people looking for jobs advertise themselves.” But the Oxford Dictionary defines it as a “list of jobs offered (or sought), especially in a newspaper.” I found it interesting that they used “offered” first.
So, it may be a case of to-may-to, to-mah-to. Actually, I’d prefer calling the whole thing off. How often does anyone use “situation” in this sense these days? It’s chiefly British and, I would argue, relatively archaic. I’d vote to end this situation right now and use more precise terms like “Help Wanted” or “Skills Offered.”
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