IMBROGLIO [im-BROL-yoh] : a confused or perplexing political or interpersonal situation


It’s getting to be a regular scene in legislatures all over the place.   Conflict instead of collaboration.   It begins with the U.S. Congress and works its way down to state , county  and even local municipalities.   The divisions between parties and individuals who exist to further the legislative process are greater than ever and they result in progress being slowed down or even stifled.

All too often the imbroglios in legislative chambers make the headlines instead of benefits to our society.   Our addiction to conflict and blood-letting is far more interesting than the hard work it takes to move our communities, states, and nation forward.

It wasn’t that long ago that we in America were shocked to see photos in the media of foreign legislatures in which elected officials engaged in fisticuffs on the floor of capitals.    Now it happens right here in our own country, with tempers flaring, accusations and insults flying, and childish behavior reigning in the very places where we would expect decorum and intelligence.

Imbroglio describes the conflict to a “t.”  It is an Italian word that has found its way into American Language, and adequately characterizes the conflict, confusion and even battle which we see among our elected officials.   The Merriam-Webster Dictionary goes a step further and includes the term “embarrassing”  into the definition.  That meaning seems to come from imbrogliare (to entangle) or the French word embrouiller  (to embroil.)   Each of these derivations gives us the meaning which makes the word important in political writing today.

Imbroglio is not restricted to politics.  It can be a sports term to describe open conflict in a game or a conflict between officials and players in everything from football to lacrosse.  We baseball fans feel our hearts crank up when the manager storms out of the dugout to confront the first base umpire over what he perceives to be a bad call.  We’ve sat at hockey games and listened to little children chant “fight!   Fight! FIGHT!” when the gloves come off and blood is spilled on the ice.

So is it built into the game of sports that such imbroglios take place, or is it the fans who insist upon the color which inserts itself into the game?   It’s a toss-up.

Families and other relationships are not immune from imbroglios. Police statistics tell us that domestic disputes occupy the time most urban “peace keepers.”

(R)ecently work by such researchers as Corso have begun to quantify the economic impact of exposure to violence and abuse. A recent publication, Hidden Costs in Health Care: The Economic Impact of Violence and Abuse, makes the case that such exposure represents a serious and costly public health issue that should be addressed by the health care system.”*

It shows itself in relationships that span ages, cultures, faiths, races, economic groups, and genders.  Police regularly describe imbroglios to which they have been called as being progressive, like a disease can be progressive leading to death.


Illustration Credit: NCSL


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