• snooker •
Pronunciation: snu-kê (UK), snU-kêr (US) • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, verb
Meaning: 1. (Noun) A game, similar to billiards, played with unnumbered balls, fifteen red ones, another six, each a different color, plus a white cue ball. 2. (Verb) To have the cue ball in a position so close behind a colored ball (which cannot be shot until all the red balls are gone) that a shot at a red ball is impossible. 3. (Verb) To stymie, stump. 4. (Verb) To trick into doing something.
Notes: Since snooker is rarely played in the US, it seems to have undergone several changes by way of mispronunciation. Snockered "drunk" was the first; then came schnockered. The latter is now a legitimate word according to the grand old Oxford Dictionary of English.
In Play: The verb is used today in the USA as a derisive term referring to trickery: "Mama snookered me into cleaning my room by telling me it would strengthen my pitching arm." In the UK, it may also be used in the sense of "stymie, stump": "At dinner last night the conversation fell into a quest to snooker Gene Poole with a question about genetics."
Word History: The game of snooker, according to an often repeated legend, was invented in India by British officers in the late 19th century as an alternative to billiards. The name of the game, again, by legend, is said to be a reference to British slang snooker "first-term cadet at the Royal Military Academy". The origin of this term has been completely lost in the mists of time. No written records of it exist, so even this little bit of its history is mostly speculation. (Double gratitude is due Luciano de Oliveira, long-time editor of the GW series, for his suggestion of schnockered, that led me in my search to today's Good Word.)