self-em-prêt-sêl-mênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: A situation in which things twist themselves so that their normal relationships are reversed or rearranged in a surprising way.
Notes: Today's Good Word is what is called a 'nonce word', a word that was invented on the spot for a particular situation that might not arise again. However, in this instance, it is hard to believe a situation will not arise again crying for this word. Self-empretzelment not only implies a plain noun, empretzelment, but a verb underlying it, to empretzel "get twisted around", plus several other derivations we will not go into here.
In Play: Although Dr. Goodword generally avoids nonce words, this one he found unusually amusing and worth a mention: "When Louis underwent his sex-change operation he found himself in a greater self-empretzelment than he had anticipated." Anytime we get entangled talking our way out of an embarrassing situation we run the risk of self-empretzelment: "Chris Cross had to talk himself into an inescapable self-empretzelment when his son asked why he couldn't smoke but Chris could."
Word History: When President George W. Bush said, "The people want services. They want to be able to raise their children in an environment in which they can get a decent education and they can find health care," he was talking about Palestinians, not Americans. TIME Magazine writer Joe Klein was puzzled that when Mr. Bush talked about Palestinians, he sounded like Ted Kennedy talking about Americans, and he called this "a curious self-empretzelment" in an article that appeared in the February 6, 2006 issue of the news magazine. (Today we thank Nathan Ginsbury for reporting this funny and fascinating neologism to us.)
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