I wake up this morning with a very clear concept in my head but can’t access the word for it. For goodness sake! I grumble as I stumble about in my slippers and dressing gown searching for my glasses – under a cat – glasses and the TV remote are a hundred percent certain to be under a cat – gathering a teetering stack of licked-clean cat-dishes, refreshing bulldog-sized water bowls and hitting the power button on my computer.

Word, word, what are you? I implore as I fill the washing-up bowl with hot water and squirt in some of that red Tesco washing-up liquid (can’t stand the green, even though it’s exactly the same substance with different colouring added).

I shall get really, really cross in a minute! I inform my brain.

Dichotomy, sighs brain.

Not dichotomy.

Yes dichotomy. Dichotomy is good enough.

Not good enough. Doesn’t at all mean what I was thinking. Well, something like what I was thinking, but not.

Well, I don’t know then, says brain in that long-suffering voice it tends to adopt with me nowadays. Why don’t you just focus on feeding these hundreds of cats?

Because I need that word!

What word?

That word. The word I’ve just been asking you to supply.


No, not dichotomy. Something similar.

Dichotomy is dichotomy is dichotomy. There either is or isn’t a dichotomy. No other word means dichotomy.

Something similar, I said.

Beginning with K?

For God’s sake, why should it begin with K?

It just sort of came to me that it might. Call it intuition.

You don’t have intuition. I have intuition. You – you have the little grey cells that are all supposed to fire at once and supply me with words as and when I want them and not THREE WEEKS LATER.

And why do you require this particular word at seven o’clock in the morning?

I do, that’s all. I woke up requiring it.


Not dichotomy.

Beginning with a K?

Why should it begin with a K? No, don’t think so.

Well, what does it mean then? Try talking around it, or maybe just give up and feed those cats. Or maybe pull the curtains or fix yourself a bowl of Weetabix?

Don’t want Weetabix. Want the word for… for when two contradictory or opposing conditions exist at the same time and both are in some sense true.



Much later that morning, driving towards the traffic lights at the crossroads, which as usual are out of order – meaning that some cars are gingerly intersecting the computed trajectories of others whilst other cars are merely launching themselves at great speed in the general direction they want to achieve because everybody knows if you accelerate hard enough a path will perforce be cleared – the word finally surfaces with a sudsy ‘plop’ in the washing-up bowl of my working memory.



Paradox, paradox, paradox. I shall write it down before it escapes again.

Paradox, paradox.

You can’t write it down since you’re currently accelerating towards these broken traffic lights; and anyway you forgot to put a new little notebook in that mysterious tiny compartment just past the gear stick, the one with all the dead car park stickers in it, and a mutant hairgrip and a 2p piece that has somehow managed to remain shiny even though it has been in that same mysterious tiny compartment for the past two and a half years. And anyway, what have you done with the pencil? There was a nice sharp one trapped in the fold of the passenger seat all last week. Why must you keep tidying things away? If only you’d just let them rest where they landed instead of officiously…what was that word again?


2 thoughts on “Dichotomy

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