Jeu Parti

Jeopardize. What a strange word. To jeopardize something is to put it in danger. We can jeopardize our relationships through obsession or neglect. Politicians tell us we can jeopardize our country’s standing with one policy proposal or another. We jeopardize our health and sometimes even our lives with certain choices we make. Still, it’s a word that doesn’t roll off the tongue. In my writing, I would even go as far as making a different word choice, maybe risk.

The word itself is a back-formation of the word jeopardy, which again, to me, is a very awkward word. The only time I think of it is when considering law and trials and the idea of double jeopardy, of not prosecuting a person twice for the same offense. Alternatively, the word brings to mind the TV game show Jeopardy, a show I don’t watch often, but if it’s on, I’ll be the first one to shout out the answers.

The word itself comes from a French phrase jeu parti, which also means danger, but in its earlier formations meant “a cunning plan or stratagem.” Personally, I like the word so much more as a French phrase. I mean, French is so chic, so sophistiqué. Adding to the exotic nature of the phrase the whole idea of plans and strategies brings to my mind the political intrigue of the Middle Ages, though the word may never have been associated with politics. It is associated with a form of entertainment, a lovers’ debate in which each side was argued in front of a referee of sorts, a game performed for the amusement of the French nobility. It’s a phrase that is also associated with games like chess, referring to a point in the game where the player has an equal chance of winning or losing, where the game hangs in the balance.

So the next time your job is in jeopardy because you constantly punch in late or you put your health at risk by eating pizza or ice cream for breakfast every day, think of jeu parti and choose wisely, lest you tip the balance in this game we call life.

Maybe

Ah, the word maybe. So full of hope. So full of promise. So devoid of commitment. It’s a thin cloud that morphs in the sky from trailing cirrus to thunderhead or dissipates at the whim of the atmospheric winds. It’s a stepping stone in a stream that could stand solidly under the weight of your crossing or tip and send you tripping headlong into icy water.

Maybe.

When I was a teen, it was the answer to everything I asked for. Can I go to the football game? Maybe. Can my friends come over? Maybe. There was always something held back, and as a result I was under the impression that up until the moment the event actually happened, there was a lot I could do to mess up my chances. A portion of that anxiety carries with me to this day.

Maybe.

Still, that one fickle, hopeful word releases the speaker from the perils of broken promises. Possibly my parents didn’t want to let me down. Perhaps they didn’t want to commit their day and their energies to something I was hoping for. As a parent, I understand that side of the equation. As I kid, I didn’t.

My  husband isn’t one for maybes. He truly believes he can make anything happen. Even though he was working long hours, we would make plans. There was no maybe about it. We were going out to dinner for my birthday. When his expected arrival time came and went, I was left with a sinking feeling that it didn’t matter enough to him to make it happen. In reality, he just got caught up at work and was very apologetic, but it was a real let-down. I’m sure throwing maybe in the mix may not have helped that situation, but it’s a word that adds a buffer to the disappointment.

Maybe.

In another sense, maybe can be a real balancing act. An invitation to a party can result in a definite maybe, as if the recipient of the invitation will come… unless a better offer comes along.

Maybe can also define with blurry, shifting lines a possible path in life. Maybe I’ll go to this school or that one. Maybe I’ll become a doctor. Maybe I’ll get married. Unless I don’t.

I’ve heard that the best way to make things happen is to create an x-year-plan. Insert your own number for the variable. I’ll do one. Where do you see yourself in x years. It’s a road map that surgically excises the maybes. I’ve also heard that creating an idea board solidifies in the wispy winds of the mind the idea that the possibilities can become realities. I’ve yet to do either, and in many areas of my life still live in the world of maybe.

Maybe if I do such and such, I’ll lose weight. Maybe I’ll go to Hawaii, or Vancouver B.C. Maybe I’ll write that novel.

No, I will write that novel.

If you’ll excuse me, I have a one-year-plan to create.

To Whom It May Concern

To the watchers of words and lovers of language at Websters, Oxford, etc.,

First of all, let me take a moment to reassure you that I am and always will be a true aficionado of adjectives, namer of nouns, and visionary of verbs. I use them often, love to listen to most of them, and rejoice when they are well-chosen and appropriate. I may cringe at some words that just plop into conversation like bird droppings onto my car, but it would be extreme for me to ask you to ban them outright.

There is one word, however, that I beg you to consider removing from the lexicon:  Boring

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/ Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

I understand you are probably grabbing your top hats right now and tightening your tweeds in preparation to take your leave. After all, you are breeders of words and compilers of lexicographic lineage. To you the thought of reducing the size of your orthographic opus must cause great stress. This word, however, has become a scapegoat. It peppers family dinners and parental attempts to engage children of all ages. It mocks sweet, long, lazy summer days. It is the devil on the shoulder, whispering in the ear of children everywhere, “do nothing.”http://

greg westfall. / Foter / CC BY

Where is the simple serenity of lying under a tree, listening to the whisper of leaves in the breeze, or the adventure of peering into pools in hopes of finding an elusive minnow or scampering salamander? What happened to the joy of summiting sand dunes only to languidly leap back down? Refrigerators everywhere have reverted to their plain facades; the colored pencils, scissors, and glue lounging lazily in a long forgotten drawer.  Frisbees and bikes and basketballs lie buried in garages as the silent streets yearn for the noise of childhood. In the library, the listless books sit gathering dust while bored people everywhere sigh and fidget or bend their heads over tiny screens.

You may be gathering your papers, and I thank you for your time. I would just ask you to consider a consequence to the children of leaving this word in the lexicon. As many say, a bored person is a boring person. Would you relegate the youth of the nation to be thus named? If we were to remove the word altogether, they would have no way to describe these feelings of apathy, and may be inclined to move, to act, to think, to talk, and to create.

Also, as you may or may not know, many mothers reward boredom with chores.

You say you’re bored? Well, the house needs sweeping, the lawn needs mowing, the weeds need pulling, windows need washing…

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/ Foter / CC BY-NC

You see what I’m saying, don’t you? Do we really want to live in this Dickensonian world of working waifs, just because of one silly word?

So, I ask you, Dear Word Wardens, please, take a moment to straighten your spectacles, prime your pens, and remove this heinous word from the world. Parents everywhere will thank you.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “No, Thank You.”If you could permanently ban a word from general usage, which one would it be? Why?