Loophole

atkins-bookshelf-wordsDefinition: an inexactness or error in a set of laws or rules that allows someone to evade its intent; a way out, a way to escape

Origin: The word has its origins in the 16th century. In order to protect medieval castles, builders built narrow windows, high above the ground, that appeared as narrow slits on the exterior, but widened inward to create enough space for an archer. Theses windows were called loopholes, from the late Middle English loupe meaning noose or loop. Some of these can be seen during battle sequences in HBO’s Game of Thrones. The archers in the loopholes have the strategic advantage — they can shoot their arrows at their enemies down below; while most of the invaders’  arrows bounce off the castle walls, unable to fly through the narrow slits. For more than a hundred years, archers and loopholes were effective defenses; however, by the 17th century gunpowder made archery — and hence loopholes — obsolete. After that, the word took on a slightly different meaning: loophole came to mean a narrow escape. Over time the word evolved to represent a clever way out of a legal situation as its primary usage.

Read related posts: The Sword of Damocles
The Buck Stops Here
Deadline

For further reading: Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson, Facts on File (2008)

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