Lookups spiked 500% on September 11, 2019
The linguistic cornucopia that is Brexit once again caused large numbers of Americans to turn to their dictionaries, as stymie was one of our top lookups on September 11th, 2019.
Scotland's highest appeals court ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament is illegal because "it had the purpose of stymying Parliament" ahead of the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline.https://t.co/wx65jYQoUq— NPR (@NPR) September 11, 2019
We define stymie as “to present an obstacle to; stand in the way of,” the most common current sense in modern use. The word does have an earlier meaning, used in golf, which means “to obstruct an opponent’s golf shot by blocking their ball.”
Stymie appears to have been first used as a noun, referring to the practice of blocking an opponent’s ball.
A certain section of the golfing world is expressing its feelings very strongly in favor of the abolition of stimies—stimies, of which we have seen it written that they are the very ‘ark of the covenant’ of golfing tradition.
— The Scots Observer (Edinburgh, Scot.), 29 Jun. 1889
The verb began to be used in the latter half of the 19th century.
Simpson, however, ‘stymied’ his opponent, and Kirkealdy took 4 to hole, against his partner’s 5.
— The Aberdeen Journal (Aberdeen, Scot.), 21 Apr. 1888
The figurative sense came about around the beginning of the 20th century.
Some of the premature Presidential booms look as though they have been stymied out of the game, golfishly speaking.
— The Living Truth (Greenville, AL), 15 Nov. 1901
Trend Watch is a data-driven report on words people are looking up at much higher search rates than normal. While most trends can be traced back to the news or popular culture, our focus is on the lookup data rather than the events themselves.