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A.Word.A.Day--Gordian knot

Pronunciation: WAV or RealAudio

Gordian knot (GOR-dee-un not) noun

1. An exceedingly complicated problem or deadlock.

2. An intricate knot tied by King Gordius of Phrygia and cut by Alexander the Great with his sword after hearing an oracle promise that whoever could undo it would be the next ruler of Asia.

"The sword that will cut the Gordian knot of race and crime will not be found in the criminal-justice system alone. Perhaps it will emerge when individuals come together to dismantle the social structures that foster racial bias." Roxann Ryan, The Gordian knot of race and crime, The Des Moines Register, Sep 12, 1999.

An ad in a recent issue of a trade journal touts the efficiency of the product very forcefully. The graphic shows the classic maze scene complete with a guinea pig and a piece of cheese in one corner. In the traditional experiment, the little animal is supposed to find his way through the maze, backtracking, remembering the paths already taken, and ultimately reaching the reward. Instead, in this scene, the rodent zooms across the diagonal, turning the parts of the maze in his way to dust, and claiming the prize he richly deserves. I think that was a perfect illustration for the idiom cutting the Gordian knot.

Can you think of a Gordian knot or two you could cut in your own life, at work or at home? Give it some thought. In the meantime, look for more words and phrases from classical mythology in AWAD this week. -Anu


Every heart has its secret sorrows, which the world knows not, and oftentimes we call a man cold, when he is only sad. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)


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