In my senior year of high school, my friends Adam, Alex, Cooper, and I decided to start playing poker. None of us had played before, but we wanted to learn the game and we had the time to kill.

It’s been six years, but the four of us still play when we are all home. We have gone to great lengths to keep poker nights going. Adam has worked during it. Cooper has skyped in. The games are far less frequent, but we still make it happen a handful of times each year.

We have probably played, oh, 100 times. There have been some pretty epic moments over the years.

​There was the time that Adam got a royal flush and didn’t even know it.

Adam: Well, good hand everyone.


Adam: Huh, would you look at that.

The odds of a royal flush are 1 in 649,739.

There was the time Cooper and I rigged a hand. Alex got four jacks, Adam got four queens, I got a straight flush to the queen, and Cooper got a royal flush. The four of us went all in and chaos ensued.

There was the time we were in the middle of a hand and saw sparks out the window. We thought they were Christmas lights. Then they got bigger. We went outside to investigate and saw that the house down the street was on fire. The fire department was already there but couldn’t salvage the house. It burned to the ground and we watched, stunned.

There was the time Cooper angrily threw his jack high down in frustration even though it was the highest hand. We ruled that Cooper folded. This prompted Cooper to claim that his act of throwing his cards down was NOT a fold. We all had to deliberate and decide what to do. To Cooper’s frustration, the ruling stood.

The point is, there have been many, many crazy moments over the years – and they are all carefully documented because of course they are. This is what we do.

But this isn’t really a post about poker. This is a post about the word rodeon, a word we invented and still use regularly. Let us begin the journey down the rabbit hole, broken into three parts.


One day, instead of playing poker, we played Scrabble. This was in late 2008 or early 2009 – the actual date is, unfortunately, lost to history. We were all enjoying ourselves and showing off our linguistical prowess when someone played the word RODEO. And then, inexplicably, Cooper placed an N next to the O and said ‘Rodeon!’ I don’t know why we found this funny, but we did, and we laughed.

Something about the word stuck with us. Maybe it was the way Cooper said it, maybe it was just the peculiar combination of syllables, but at some point we decided to make rodeon a word. Not just a Scrabble word – an actual, real word that we would forever use in our lives. The four of us almost immediately agreed on a definition. And, like, I don’t know how we managed to agree on this so quickly, but it was like the word rodeon was there all along, and we were just the first to happen upon it, as if we were the guardians of the word and its meaning, like how Isaac Newton felt when he discovered gravity or calculus. I don’t doubt that divine intervention played a part.

rodeon [roh-dee-on]

noun; verb
a situation where a person is expecting a full success, but is met with disappointing failure — often to the delight of another present party

At first, we only used the word in poker situations. I have a better hand than you – rodeon. I bluffed and won – rodeon. And then, over time, we started to use the word in all types of situations. It took on a life of its own. We realized – this could be big.


Let us count the reasons why rodeon is such a useful word.

It can be used in all types of situations.

– I was expecting such a pleasant day, so I drove to the park, but then it rained. Rodeon.

There are 45,000 seats in this baseball stadium, and it just so happens that a bird defecated on mine. Rodeon.

One time, Alex and I were out to dinner with his family. We both ordered pulled pork sandwiches. Moments later, the waiter returned and said that they only had enough pulled pork for one sandwich. This was a rodeon.*

*Well, it was a rodeon for Alex. The sandwich went to me.

It fills a void in the English language.

This is called a lexiconical gap, when something doesn’t have a word but should. For example, the Italian word cualcino refers to the mark left on a table by a cold glass. There is no English translation.

There isn’t really an English word that captures the rodeon phenomenon (as far as I’m aware, there isn’t a word in any language). In middle school, the word “serve” was popular, as in “you got served,” or “that was a serve.” I don’t know why those were things we said, but they were. “Burn” was also popular. No one says those words in 2014.

Without the word rodeon, the only way to describe these moments is by using multiple words, such as “unfortunate situation” or “I was expecting great success and then this awful thing happened.” Sometimes people use the phrase “Murphy’s Law,” but there is a subtle difference.

Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong

Rodeon: you expect nothing to go wrong and then it does

It can be used as both a noun and verb.

A rodeon can be a thing (“man, that was such a rodeon”) or an action (“I rodeoned you”). In rare cases, it can be used as an adjective (rodeonical) or even an adverb (rodeonically). It cannot be used as a pronoun or proper noun, unless, of course, you start a business called ‘Rodeon,’ which, apparently, has already happened.

It has an opposite.

The opposite of a rodeon is a noedor, pronounced “know-door,” which is rodeon backwards. This is when you expect something bad to happen, but it doesn’t. It is said (and experienced) less often, though certainly encouraged.

It is a fun word to say.

Say it out loud. Rodeon. Roh-dee-on. RODEON.

And now we move on to Part 3:


I am a simple man, and I don’t want or expect too much, but one thing I really really want to see is for the word rodeon to spread like a giant virus, invading the brains of every human and becoming a part of the world’s regular lexicon. I want to see it in official Supreme Court decisions, in sports box scores, in job rejection letters. I want to see it on news broadcasts. I want to see it in the dictionary.

We all agree – the moment one of us attains a position of power, we will do what we can to spread the word. We are playing the long game. We don’t expect it to happen quickly, but we will see it through, and it will happen.

One final thought.

It took an amazing series of events for the word rodeon to enter the world. The four of us had to play the exact same Scrabble words in the exact same order, the word ‘rodeo’ must have been played, Cooper had to have an N, and above all, he had to inexplicably place it after rodeo. None of this should have happened. The definition and use of the word – oh yes, that was borne out of necessity and honed through careful, pragmatic thinking. But its creation just happened. I think back to the words of Albert Einstein. I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.


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