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quandary

Printable Version Pronunciation: kwan-dê-ree Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A predicament or dilemma that causes great perplexity and confusion.

Notes: The heads-up for today's Good Word is the second A. Because it is unaccented, it often falls victim to the "loose vowel syndrome" (LVS) so that the word comes out as quand'ry. However you pronounce this word, don't forget to include the second A when you write it. Remember to change the Y to an I in the plural, too: quandaries. Predicaments, dilemmas, and quandaries are very similar, but a predicament is a difficult situation with no easy way out. A dilemma is a situation in which you face two choices, neither of which is pleasant. A quandary can be either of these accompanied by perplexity and complexity.

In Play: The most common usage of today's Good Word is in the phrase 'in a quandary' as in: "Correy Publican finds himself in a quandary: if he gives his employees bonuses this year he will have to fly the company jet less often, keep the yacht in port all fall, and limit his own bonus." But quandaries arise in everyone's life: "Crystal Ball faces a serious quandary: whether to marry Cary, who is rich, but homely, Barry, who is poor but handsome, or Larry, who is charming and funny."

Word History: What word in English more appropriately puts etymologists in a quandary than today's Good Word? No one has any idea where this word came from. It was first published in 1579, which means that it was in existence well before that date. However, no one has any clue as to how it made its way into English. Suggestions have been made of a relationship to Latin quando "when", but that relationship has never been explained. Someone even suggested that it is a dialectal variation of wandreth, but failed to explain how the inflectional form of a verb became an uninflected noun. So, where does that leave us? You guessed it. (We face no quandary at all in deciding whom to thank for suggesting today's Good Word: it is our old friend Susan Lister.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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