ZUGZWANG...

What It Sounds Like (TSOOK-tsvahng) 

If you don't know what this word means, what does its sound and shape suggest to you?  If you give it the German pronunciation (as in the key above), it feels to me like a a large, toothy predator—one I would not want to meet in an alley, dark or otherwise: 

zugzwang


What It Actually Means

This word, despite its toothy sound, has nothing to do with monsters, though alleys aren't far off. Turns out, the noun form refers to a CHESS MOVE that leaves you with almost no place to go. (Your only moves will put you at risk.)  As a verb, it's the action of luring your opponent into a zugzwang. 

Where It Comes From

Zuc, which, in Middle High German, meant to pull or move, was derived from Old High German, Ziohan, to pull. Add this root to the Middle High German, twanc, which means compulsion or a tight place, and you've got a word I personally am devoted to making popular. Why restrict it to chess? Why not plot to zugzwang all sorts of folks in all sorts of contexts?! Heh, heh!



Now Go Out There And USE it!

© Louise Hawes 2015