by Paul Niquette
Copyright ©2015 by Paul Niquette.  All rights reserved.

no-brainer n. (with or without the hyphen) a question or problem that is very easy to deal with, simple.

The expression no-brainer was initially intended to replace stupid idea.  I was there. 

More than half a century has flashed by since I began using the phrase no-brainer with that meaning, to the delight of colleagues and family members.  The original context is long forgotton but not the phraseology: "That idea [typically of my own] turned out to be a no-brainer," I was heard to say.  Much as today's exclamation, "What was I THINKing!"

Along its etymological journey, no-brainer seems to have shifted its meaning.  It is easy to understand why.  Some ideas result from no thought, others require no thought.  Modern dictionaries define no-brainer only in terms of simplicity

One example published on the web reads, “Making pumpkin pie can be a no-brainer if you use frozen pastry and canned filling.”  Thus, in its original sense, "Making pumpkin pie can be a no-brainer if you're dieting."
The phrase slam dunk has been appropriated from basketball from time to time as an alternative to no-brainer in the easy sense, although for most people a slam dunk is far from easy.  To act in place of stupid idea, politicians and others have garnered non-starter from track-and-field or, in the extreme, dead-on-arrival from emergency-room parlance.

Now, I do occasionally use no-brainer -- but with its original meaning, secretly mindful that often a simple solution is really a stupid idea.

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