Monday, January 14, 2008

Interesting word

I ran across mamihlapinatapai while reading 'Prisoner's Dilemma' by William Poundstone. It is a word from the Fuegian language of the natives of Tierra del Fuego. He states that it means "looking at each other hoping that either will offer to do something that both parties desire but are unwilling to do". This is in reference to the Cuban missile crisis. Both parties were not interesting in escalating the event to a world wide nuclear war, but neither wanted to be the first to back down. It is a perfect word for the Volunteer's Dilemma.

The volunteer's dilemma occurs when you are driving down the highway and see a stranded car. Do you call the police or stop and help the person? It would be bad if *everyone* stopped or called the police, but it would be worse if *no one* called. (this assumes that the person was sans cell phone, which is highly unlikely these days)

Online, I found the urban dictionary and this link the most amusing uses.

1 comment:

yajeev said...

Sara and Joe looked from the pond to each other; they experienced mamihlapinatapai: who would be the first to board their boat?