Health vs. Healthy

WRONG: My boss has a healthy problem.
RIGHT: My boss has a health problem.

This week’s Czenglish mistake concerns the misuse over health and healthy – which sometimes makes the sentence have the complete opposite meaning. Health is a noun we use to talk about medical conditions. For example, we say, ‘His health is very good’. We also use it to form a compound noun, such as health service, health department, and, as in our example, health problem.

Healthy is the adjective and we use it to say something is in good medical condition, e.g. My boss is very healthy. It is a positive word. This is why the sentence, ‘My boss has a healthy problem’ is incorrect when you are referring to your boss‘ medical condition. A ‘healthy problem’ is a problem you have to solve but one that is good problem. Confused? Imagine your boss has to decide between two people to employ and they are both excellent candidates. Well, it’s a problem knowing who to choose, but it’s a healthy problem because both choices will produce a good result.

Here’s both used together:

Boss: I can’t decide which candidate to choose. It’s a real problem.
Deputy: Well, it’s a healthy problem! They are both great candidates.
Boss: You’re right. Ok, let’s make a decision. I’ll choose Mr Smith because Mr Jones has a history of health problems and I need my employees to be at work!