A humorous American expression: Houston, we have a problem


I just thought some of you might like to know about a humorous American expression that you might hear in an older movie or even a conversation, especially from older Americans.

In the 1970s, some American astronauts in space radioed this message back to headquarters in the city of Houston in the state of Texas:

“Houston, we’ve had had a problem.”

People, however, changed it to the simpler: “Houston, we have a problem.”

Starting in the 1970s, some Americans would use this expression as a humorous way to announce ANY problem:

The family is waiting for dinner. Mother enters the dining room with nothing in her hands. She says, “Houston, we have a problem. I accidentally burned up the dinner.”


Hi James, are you sure the original expression was “we’ve had had a problem”? I mean, what tense is this supposed to be?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, talks: A company president introduces the keynote speaker at a corporate event[YSaerTTEW443543]


From what I’ve read recently, that (misquoted\shortened) line, coming up a lot in everyday life, annoys a lot of Houstonians. So I’d only cite the example which attracted my attention by naming a couple of acronyms I had been not so familiar with (my guess they are St. Louis and Atlanta):

“Houston, We Have a Problem. LA, Chicago, STL, ATL, NYC. You Guys Too.” talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/hou … u-guys-too


Thanks, Torsten, for pointing out my typo. As you implied, it’s “Houston, we’ve HAD a problem.”

Thanks, Eugene, for the info.

To: Torsten

Houston, we have a problem. Each time I sign in, I click on “remember me.” But it never does. I have to sign in each time I visit the site. But, then, you have told us that the site is experiencing many problems, so I assume that you know about this problem.


As a non native English speaker who has never lived in any English speaking country in my entire life,I lack most of the culture of the anglophone institutions.So many sublte jokes are kind of difficult for me. Anyway I love languages and I try to learn more every day.


Just a note -

As a non-native English speaker …


Yes…of course,thanks!