James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Sun Jan 28 21:33:32 UTC 2001

George R. R. Martin "The Computer Was A Fish" in Analog Science Fiction,
August 1972, pp61ff:

    "Once upon a time there was a fish.
    "Most people would have called the fish a computer.  To be precise, they
would have called it a Control Data Corporation (CDC) 6400.
    "It was a CDC 6400, of course.  But it was also a fish.
    "A fish, you see, is a chess player.  A bad chess player.  THe title is
awarded by other players when one of thier peers exhibits a singular skill in
losing chess games.  Popular synonyms are 'patzer' and 'meatcake'."

    Does anyone have any idea whether this "fish" is the same one currently
being discussed on this list?
    I have never heard the term "meatcake" either in or out of chess.
"Patzer"  or "potzer" according to Merriam-Webster's 10th Collegiate is
"probably from Germen Patzer bungler, fr. patzen to blunder" and means "an
inept chess player."  The variant spelling "potzer" suggests the word came
from Yiddish rather than German, since Yiddish is written in the Hebrew
alphabet and therefore must be transliterated.
    One more term: "woodpusher", apparently a term invented within the chess
word at a time when most chessmen were made of wood rather than plastic.

    My college roommate was insistent that there was a hierarchy among the
words "fish", "woodpusher", and "patzer", that is, they referred to different
levels of incompetence.  Unfortunately I don't remember in what order he
ranked them.  I seem to recall that it was "woodpusher" to which he gave the
definition "someone who has heard of 'en passant' but cannot demonstrate a
situation in which en passant can occur."

                 - Jim Landau (whose chess-playing is above
                                      levels and is entitled to the adjective

More information about the Ads-l mailing list