Quagmire! What a great word!
It’s such a great word that I didn’t bother with the Urban Dictionary this week owing to the wealth of information in Merriam-Webster, although there was one hilarious submission in the UB (as usual).
Used by President Obama in his State of the Union speech may have got tongues wagging? I bet he knew what it meant. I doubt whether Donald Trump knows even though he would be in a quagmire of his own making if he actually did shoot someone 🙂
: an area of soft, wet ground
: a situation that is hard to deal with or get out of : a situation that is full of problems
1: soft miry land that shakes or yields under the foot
2: a difficult, precarious, or entrapping position : predicament
See quagmire defined for English-language learners
Examples of quagmire
A Girl of the Limberlost is a Cinderella story whose wicked stepmother, in an interesting twist, is the heroine’s real mother. She is a crazy person, deranged by grief for a husband who was sucked into a quagmire before her eyes when she was pregnant with Elnora. —Janet Malcolm,New York Review of Books, 15 Jan. 2009
That was six months ago, when the Defense secretary laughingly dismissed the idea that Iraq was, or could turn into, a quagmire. But as Rumsfeld sat down last Friday morning to face Sen. John McCain, who spent six years in a Vietnamese prison, no one was laughing. —Michael Hirsh et al., Newsweek, 17 Nov. 2003
State involvement will create a vast bioethical quagmire. Even if everyone magically agrees that improving a child’s memory is as valid as avoiding dyslexia, there will still be things taxpayers aren’t ready to pay for—genes of unproven benefit, say, or alterations whose downsides may exceed the upside. —Robert Wright, Time, 11 Jan.1999
<the party was once again facing its quadrennial quagmire: the candidate sufficiently liberal to win the nomination would be too liberal for the general election>
<a protracted custody dispute that became a judicial quagmire>
First Known Use
bind, box, catch-22, corner, dilemma, fix,hole,impasse, jackpot [chiefly West], jam,mire,pickle, predicament, rabbit hole,rattrap,spot, sticky wicket¹, swamp
difficulty,node; hot water, soup; pinch,plight, quandary, scrape, trouble; deadlock,halt, logjam, stalemate, standstill; clutch,crisis, crossroad, emergency, exigency,juncture, strait
President Obama used the word—with an uncommon pronunciation—during his final State of the Union
Quagmire spiked the evening of January 12th, 2016, after President Barack Obama used the word in his State of the Union address, speaking of the need to exercise caution in foreign affairs:
We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq — and we should have learned it by now.
Quagmire is a word that is often associated with military conflicts in which the invading army becomes bogged down. The word’s meaning and etymology make such use quite logical; not only is a quagmire a bog, or area of soft ground in which it can be difficult to walk, but the word is formed by combining quag (meaning marsh) with mire (a word meaning ‘to cause to stick fast in’).
When used to describe an undesirable military situation, quagmire is frequently found in reference to the involvement of the United States in Vietnam. It has been used to describe this conflict since at least 1963, when Irving Kristol used it, writing in The New Leader:
The United States cannot overthrow the Diem regime, occupy the country, manage the economy, run the civil administration, and then fight the war for the Vietnamese. We have troubles enough without plunging into that quagmire.
Although quagmire was first used (since 1566) to describe a literal swamp, it quickly became used in a figurative sense, to mean ‘a situation that is full of problems’. A letter from Sir William Cecil to Lord Sydney in 1567 used the word in just such fashion, to describe the state of affairs in Scotland:
Scotland is in a quagmire, nobody seemeth to stand still.
One non-political aspect of Obama’s use of the word that was commented on was his favoring of a pronunciation with a broad a (kwäg-mī(-ə)r), rather than a short one, with the vowel in the first syllable matching the one in ‘top,’ instead of the typically used vowel that matches the one in ‘tap‘. This led Ronan Farrow to declare on Twitter: “The real winner tonight – people who pronounce “quagmire” with a long “a“.” (Farrow uses the term “long a,” which phoneticians would say sounds like the a infate).
And an opposing view of Farrow’s declaration is this tweet full of understatement of the import of that mispronunciation. It is is reproduced below –
As an Englishman, I’m with Behrle. You Yanks do mangle the English language 🙂
Okay, here is the UB version –
family guy giggity sex dilemma predicament giggidyiraq peter griffin goo pervert clusterfuck family guy mess penis pickle funny glenn quagmire peter war
“Clusterfuck” – don’t you just love the English language (and what our former colonies have added to it!)
I’m having a ball with Word Wednesday Fun so come and join in.
¹ I will attempt to explain sticky wicket to my American friends 🙂 It’s not fully explained in M-W
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Interesting how “quagmire” gets used by a colonial power when they enter “foreign soil” and then find the ground a wee bit unstable (not just metaphorically speaking). A quagmire–or its affiliate “bog” or “fen”–is darn helpful when it comes to guerrilla tactics.
Always thought quagmire was a pretty cool word…as is clusterf@#k…both are very descriptive 🙂