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Archive for November, 2014


Yes, folks, in the ceaseless quest for verbal serendipity, entertainment and enlightenment I have read through an entire dictionary [well, I must have because this is pretty well on the last page, innit?] to bring you a word that, when you get its meaning, you will wonder how you ever managed without. That sentence may be ungrammatical, but you get my drift?
Zugzwang is a German word, a chess term, but I see no reason why it should be confined to chess. Let it break free into the universe!
Imagine you have been invited to someone’s house for tea. You don’t find them congenial; your heart sinks, but you tell yourself, as we do, that it might be good to go because…. because they sound so genuinely pleased to have you in their tea-drinking clutches; you hope it might strategically be useful – maybe they could babysit, or lend you a decent book to read, or give you a salary boost…. but alas, none of these things happen. You sit glumly, trying not to sneak looks at your watch [am I the only person that still wears a watch especially so I can do this without fiddling with my phone?] wondering how soon and how gracefully you could extricate yourself from this person’s life…
Finally, you do it. You wave goodbye. You hope your paths need never cross socially again. But aarrgggh, a few days later, doesn’t the person phone you and say how lovely it was to meet up, and how great it would be if you were in today, as they will be dropping by around teatime? and a grey cloud comes over your consciousness as you realise there is no alternative for you. You must invite them – they could be your boss or an in-law, anyway, you cannot, much as you’d like to, delete them from your own, all too horribly real, network of acquaintances.
Furthermore, you know that this is just the beginning of a series of unprofitable encounters from which you can never hope to derive pleasure, gain or profit.
That, my friend, is your zugzwang.
Your obligation to make a move that will bring you no advantage at all, yet which you cannot avoid.

I can’t promise that this is one of a series of fab new words, because that’s not how I operate. Next time I am leafing through a dictionary in search of entertainment, I’ll have a look at the letter A. That is as much as I can offer. I have spent my life avoiding zugzwangs.

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