Thursday, October 07, 2010

Gordion Knot

GORDIAN KNOT, n. Gordon, the King of Khartoum, had as a fastening to his war-chariot a knot so intricate that neither end of the thong could be seen, and he used to brag about it a good deal. Instructed by an oracle, he declared that anybody attempting to undo it and failing should stand the beer, but anybody succeeding should receive the greatest honor that he had ever conferred-a favor which would turn the unsuccessful competitors pea-green with envy and break them all up: the King would shake him for the drinks. When this decree was promulgated all Gordon's subjects joined the Good Templars, but Alexander Badlam of Macedon hearing about it, started at once for the Soudanese capital. Ushered with great pomp into the harness-room, he took out his pocket-knife and calmly cut the knot, remarking with the ready wit which distinguished him from the humorist of the period: "Get onto that racket, my son." "Shake," replied the monarch with truly oriental exuberance of imagery. They shook, using four dice. The King threw four sixes. "Two small pairs," he explained, with royal unconcern. Alexander dumped the cubes back into the box, blew into it, muttered a few cabalistic words and threw. Five deuces! "In Macedon this is the national game, endeared to the popular heart by seventeen centuries of unbroken succcess, and I have been brought through it with a lantern," said he, laconically. Graciously pleased to mark his sense of the performance in words of memorable significance, the monarch exclaimed: "You take the cake," and led the way to the royal sideboard, when, later in the day, Alexander, over three fingers of same as before, explained with the richness of metaphor which characterizes the speech of men familiar with that barbaric splendor of Eastern courts: "It's a cold day when I get left."

2010 Update: In legend, a knot that so frustrated attempts to unwind it that Alexander the Great was inspired to cut it with a sword. The memory of the Gordion Knot is often used as a pedagogical device to describe a problem so complex that only common sense can solve it.

16 comments:

TLP said...

I hate to admit being so ignorant, but this is a new one on me.

GORDIAN KNOT: How do you solve the nation's woes, when common sense is so uncommon?

Jim said...

Poor old Badlam. He took his chances with the King. First by using his knife to break the knot and then by 'throwing' five dueces with four dice. The latter is hard to shake as of this day.

My paper thrower uses the Gordion Knot most every morning tying the plastic sleeve on our paper. Most times I resort to using scissors to break his knot..
..

Ariel the Thief said...

I am not a fan of Alexander the Great but he did what had to be done to that knot. Very good definition, Doug, and short as a polite definition should be.

Anonymous said...

What's done is done if you can't beat them join them ...

Anonymous said...

and besides that i'm eating a sandwich right now call me later

Thom said...

GORDIAN KNOT, n. - Is this how Vegas got it's start?

karen a. said...

It's also apparent TLP and I, and probably Doug, have to put our return emails on voicemail because of the telemarketers.

Blooming Psycho said...

The Gordonian knot sounds like how my brain feels when I try to figure out life, the universe, and everything. Which is probably why I try not to do so very often.

tsduff said...

I'm knot challenged...

Yes, I am knot challenged and have been for a very long time. I approve of the sword method.

Omnipotent Poobah said...

A gordian knot is the result of playing an accordian recklessly.

actonbell said...

There are lots of things I'd enjoy hacking in half, rather than solving.

karen a. said...

Who else is glad that actonbell enjoys hacking things in half, rather than solving?

Raise your hand if you think you know. And I mean it! Whoever raises their hand first better know the answer!

I know! I know!

ACTONBELL is tlp's daughter!

Yes! That's right!

ACTONBELL
is tlp's Daughter!

Anonymous said...

some things are best kept
twisted and intertwined
..though i too resort to
cutting my way to
morning paper

peace

Anonymous said...

happy birthday
john lennon

peace

w/v..sylliess
subtle exposure of lies

Doug said...

TLP, it takes a lot of baby-splitting.

Jim, paper-throwers are some of the most talented Americans, I truly believe.

Thank you, Ariel, for noticing.

Karen, enjoy your sandwich.

Thom, probably.

Not me, Karen. I just delete the spam.

Blooming, that's why I do not recommend figuring all that out.

Terry, me too, although maybe be careful using it on shoelaces.

That was a good one, Poobah.

Amen, A-bell.

Well investigated, Karen.

Bear, that's one of the things I think we have uncommon. Leave what's tangled knotted.

karen a. said...

Yes. I did enjoy my sandwich. I was hungry.

Slept-in late this morning. I ate breakfast for lunch. Crispy bacon, eggs over-easy, rye toast with Orange juice. And French-roast coffee flavored with Nestle® Italian Sweet Crème Coffee-mate®.

Then I had red grapes for dessert. It hit the spot ...

~~~!!!