Word of the week: deadlock


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Word of the week: deadlock” was written by Steven Poole, for The Guardian on Friday 26th January 2018 14.45 Asia/Kolkata

Until the US government shutdown ended earlier this week, with the signing of a short-term spending bill, it was widely said to be in “deadlock”. That is at least better than “stalemate”, because in chess, stalemate instantly ends the game. But what have locks got to do with political contests?

The name “dead lock” (or deadbolt), for a lock without a spring keeping the bolt in place, dates from 1866, but “dead lock” had already been used for a century to describe “a state of affairs in which it is impossible to proceed or act; a complete stand‑still” (OED).

“Dead” here means absolutely or thoroughly, as in “to a dead certainty”. The novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne later wrote of a traffic jam of market carts in the street as a “dead-lock”, and political deadlocks were all over American political commentary by the late 19th century.

Recently there have been reports of deadlocks not only in the United States but in Germany and Nigeria, and also in football matches. But perhaps, like stalemate, the term is routinely misapplied – because if it proved possible to continue after all, it wasn’t really a deadlock in the first place.

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Word of the week: deadlock | NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE

Rajesh Ahuja

I am a veteran journalist based in Chandigarh India.I joined the profession in June 1982 and worked as a Staff Reporter with the National Herald at Delhi till June 1986. I joined The Hindu at Delhi in 1986 as a Staff Reporter and was promoted as Special Correspondent in 1993 and transferred to Chandigarh. I left The Hindu in September 2012 and launched my own newspaper ventures including this news portal and a weekly newspaper NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE (currently temporarily suspended).