Saturday, March 03, 2007

Words Derived From Games

The importance of games in our lives and culture is reflected by the numerous words and phrases in our language that originally come from games. I wrote earlier about how people misappropriate the word "game", but it's only fair that they do so if games have had such an influence on the way that we think.

In some cases, these terms probably pre-date a particular game, but they have become popularized because of games.


The term chess has come to represent political, economic, or military maneuvers. People organizing their forces in an attempt to win are sometimes said to be engaged in a game of chess. If the location involves discrete spaces, it may be called a chessboard.

If you outwit someone in a minor way, or you stop his progress, you are said to have checked that person. If your maneuvering was a major victory, it's checkmate, or check and mate. If neither side can achieve victory, it is a stalemate.

The people you manipulate to achieve your goals are pawns or men.

When you enter the last stages of a battle, you have reached the endgame. If you have locked someone in position, they are pinned. A risky strategy may be called a gambit.


An even riskier move will be called a gamble. When you gamble, you have to be aware of any wild cards that may mess up your strategy.

You don't want to play dice with your life. But sometimes, you just have to roll the die and see what happens.

You might hit the jackpot, which originally derived from a progressive ante when no one in the previous game revealed a pair of jacks or better.

Your most valuable assets are blue chip assets. When life deals you a dead hand, you may have to bluff. Raise the ante and see if your opponent folds.

In the end, it may come to a show-down. It all depends on the turn of the cards. Pick a card, and let the chips fall where they may.

If you've got a good hand, you may have a full house. If you're the top, you're the ace. If you're the bottom, you're the deuce. If you're versatile, you may be the joker or a jack of all trades. If you're the femme fatale, you may be the queen of hearts.

You may achieve the full monty or you may go bust.

Other Card Games

If a whole bunch of people do something, you may just have to follow suit. You don't want to renege on any your promises. On the other hand, your ideas might trump theirs.

Just don't get too crazy, and shoot [for] the moon, or you might find yourself acting the dummy, or alone playing solitaire. You have to call a spade a spade and play the cards your dealt.


If your career is ended, do not pass go, do not collect $200. If you were convicted of a crime, go directly to jail. If you're safe, you've landed on free parking.

If you have the best location, you've got Boardwalk and Park Place. If you're in the worst location, it's Marvin's Gardens for you.

Regardless, when your time is up, it's all so much monopoly money.

Other Games

Some people are known for their wild hi-jinks, which was originally a drinking dice game. Some people are unstable, and one setback will fell them like so many dominoes.

If you know whom I'm talking about, you might say "Bingo. That's him."

Generic Game Terms

We all follow the rules, play the game, play by the rules, and play by the same rules. But only some of us play with a full deck.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well what a turn-up for the books this post is. You may well think you are streets ahead, but I know that you are only level-pegging.