This Friday, a very simple—but still awesome—word is in order. That word is stymie (STY’mee). In almost every circumstance, you will hear this word used as a verb in the past tense, such as “Bob was stymied.” Stymie, however, can be either noun or verb, and as a verb, of course, can exist in any tense you want it.
None of which tells us anything about what the word means. Because its most common uses are in the past tense, that is how we’ll look at it here:
To be stymied is to be tangled up in a situation so hopelessly complex or confusing as to discourage any attempt at solving or untangling. Anyone who does a lot of Sudoku puzzles knows that if you make a mistake and don’t discover it until much later, you’re likely to be stymied. There is no way to untangle the mess you’ve created once you’ve based all your logic through several solutions on an error made much earlier.
If you’ve ever taken a math class, you’ve probably come across one or two problems which left you stymied… you could see all the parts and understood what the question was asking, but simply could not figure out the solution.
It is important to understand the difference between being stymied and being, say, overwhelmed. Although an overwhelming situation may be a stymie—that is, it may induce you to just throw your hands up and abandon the whole mess—situations which are not overwhelming can still be stymies. All that’s required is that the situation be too complex or convoluted for sense to be made of it. In the cases of the Sudoku puzzle or the math problem, neither is overwhelming—in both instances, you can see everything there is to see, and it’s usually not very much… just a handful of numbers or figures. It’s the complexity, the nuisance of a knot in which those numbers and figures are tied up, that makes them a stymie.
Relationships—especially long-term, serious, intimate relationships—often involve the occasional stymie. It may be a decision that you just can’t seem to agree on or an argument that you just can’t seem to resolve. In such cases, the only thing to do is just walk away… usually shaking your head furiously. Don’t worry, though; it’s perfectly normal and perfectly human. We all get stymied from time to time.
Editor’s Note: This post was written by Mark Jacobs. Mark is an advisor for The Jet Fuel Review and Blog. He is an Aviation major, but the left side of his brain is an avid writer. Mark is a sophomore and works a few hours a week as a tutor in the Writing Center in this school year.