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I am watching the American sitcom The Office, Season 9.

There are the dialogue like below and I don't get it. could you please help me?

Dwight: Okay, here’s one. A customer who ordered enough paper to qualify for a volume discount now wants to return half the stock. You can't rebate the sales price or credit for future purchased, because you brokered the deal for a third party.

Clark: That’s just a classic no-win situation.

Dwight: Thank you.

Clark: So, I'd Kobayashi Maru it.

I searched google and knew 'Kobayashi Maru' means no win situation. By the way in this sentence, it looks like that 'Kobayashi Maru' is used as verb. How can I interpret it?

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    Yes. It is used as a verb. In the film Star Trek, "Kobayashi Maru" was a no-win test and the hero won it by cheating. You can search on Youtube for a clip. – NVZ May 21 '16 at 4:08
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    This usage is similar to "I will deep six it." or "I will sh*t can it". – user3169 May 21 '16 at 4:34
  • Isn't The Office a comedy? – nnnnnn May 21 '16 at 5:16
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The titular Kobayashi Maru is a test given to command candidates in Star Trek. The test is a literal no-win scenario - either the Maru was destroyed, or the test taker's simulated ship was. Rather than being a test of skill, the Kobayashi Maru scenario was used to test the resolve and character of the test-taker.

It's also important to note that the no-win aspect is meant to be a secret; multiple command candidates take the test, but they're sworn to secrecy about the parameters of the test. They all fail to save themselves or the Maru, but nobody ever tells them why.

However, James Kirk (commander of the Enterprise in The Original Series and first six films) developed a novel solution... he cheated. He took the test multiple times, because he refused to accept a failure. Instead, he gained access to the simulator prior to taking the test, and altered the parameters in the software. He is known as the only person to "beat" the "no-win scenario".

"Kobayashi Maru" as a verb can then mean two things:

  1. Completely and utterly failing, especially if somebody else set you up to fail so they can see how you handle it.
  2. Cheating and getting away with it.

Depending on how you feel about deliberate no-win scenarios, it's cheating in either direction.

I don't watch the show in question, but the context of having Kobayashi Maru'd something identified as a no-win scenario strongly indicates Clark cheated in some way.

If he said it the other way, that somebody had Kobayashi Maru'd him, that would indicate he felt like somebody had cheated him.

  • Can you give examples of these meanings, from real world usage? – Alan Carmack May 21 '16 at 12:50
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I see two things going on here:

1) Clark is demonstrating "nerd cred" -- showing that he is familiar with Star Trek knowledge. The reason it's the "perfect answer" is not because it describes exactly how to deal with the problem but just because it's a relevant response from Star Trek and in that social circle, that is the height of a cool answer.

Imagine, for example, your geek girlfriend calls you up and says there are spiders in her house and wants to know what she should do. Call an exterminator? Are there spider traps? You reply, "I say we take off, nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

She might tell you that's a perfect answer. Not because it is literally a good idea (or practical in any way) but because it's a quote from a movie you both enjoy (Aliens). You are just reveling in a little shared "nerd cred".

So mainly I think Clark was just saying "You should hire me because I come up with cool answers."

2) To Kobayashi Maru a situation is really to find the win in the no-win situation. This is not necessarily cheating or eliminating the problem, it's just changing the situation using unconventional and inventive thinking.

Kirk would never have seen this as cheating. In his own words, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, "I changed the conditions of the test!" The relevance basically being that Kirk ends up beating Khan not by besting him in a straight up shootout, but by changing the conditions -- using control codes to lower Khan's shields and hiding in a nebula. Not cheating! Just not fighting in a way Khan anticipated.

So I believe Clark was saying that in this situation, he would look to change the situation of the problem (while not specifying exactly how -- Kirk didn't either, in the original Wrath of Khan movie), and it's also a great answer to give to someone you know is a Star Trek geek.

  • I think this is a great explanation - but there are a few points that you might want to explain keeping in mind that learners often aren't familiar with the exact nuance of slang and idioms (hip, cred, 'out of the box', et. al). – ColleenV Jul 29 '16 at 19:29
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Kobayashi Maru is the name of a specific no-win test in the Star Trek world. The test is meant to test the cadets on what they would do in such a no-win situation. The test is named after the 'Kobayashi Maru', a stranded space vessel that plays a central role in the test.

In this episode of The Office Dwight interviews several people for the position of new part-time salesman. In the interview with Clark, who Dwight does not want to get the job, Dwight sets up a similar no-win situation. Clark recognizes this, and his response is I'd Kobayashi Maru it (the situation). So yeah, Clark uses a noun (the name of the test) as a verb. We can do this in English and that's one way new verbs are formed.

As for the meaning, it's a bit obscure at first. Clark could plausibly mean something like I'd apply the methods of solving the Kobayashi Maru test to it. But this is just trying to put some meaning to his expression. What's important at this point is to realise that whatever Clark meant, Dwight (a super geek Star Trek fan) is impressed by its usage, since it alludes to the Star Trek test.

Clark uses the same phrase (to Kobayashi Maru something) a second time, and this time the meaning is clear. The interview continues with the following lines immediately following those in your question:

Dwight: Damn it! Perfect answer, again.
Clark: Yep.
Dwight: Think Dwight, think. You have a ream of 16-bond …
Clark: You know what, Dwight?
Dwight: And anoth—
Clark: This interview’s over, and I get the job. I just Kobayashi Maru’d the whole process.
Dwight: No.
Clark: Yeah. Star Trek rules.
Dwight: It does, but still no.
Clark: Come on, man. I mean, did Trevor do that? Did Rolf do that?

(Source)

Here, Clark uses the phrase in a similar way as the phrase to deep six something. You can clink on that link for Oxford Dictionary's definition, but the Wikitionary definition that user3169 links to is easier to apply here:

(idiomatic) To discard, cancel, halt; to completely put an end to something.

In Clark's second usage

This interview’s over, and I get the job. I just Kobayashi Maru’d the whole process.

Clark clearly uses Kobayashi Maru as a synonym for deep six. You can insert deep six'd for Kobayashi Maru’d with no change in meaning.

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    I don't think deep six has the same meaning as the verbification of Kobayashi Maru. To Kobayashi Maru means to go outside of the process/rules in an unexpected way to win a supposedly no-win situation. To deep six something mean to dispose of something irretrievably. "Deep six the twinkie wrappers before anyone figures out we cheated on our diet!" – ColleenV May 21 '16 at 17:01
  • @ColleenV Could you point me to some real life uses of to Kobayashi Maru that have the meaning you speak of? The Urban Dictionary did not contain any, when I looked as I wrote my answer. I'm afraid I'm not a fan of Star Trek, although I'm a huge fan of The Office. I'm more than willing to be corrected here, based on empirical evidence. At least you haven't said the word cheat... :) – Alan Carmack May 21 '16 at 17:50
  • Also @ColleenV I did speculate that the phrase could mean "I'd apply the methods of solving the Kobayashi Maru test to [the proposed no-win situation]", which seems a synonymous with, but less specific than, "to go outside of the process/rules in an unexpected way to win a supposedly no-win situation." – Alan Carmack May 21 '16 at 17:56
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    If you read the Wikipedia page devoted to Kobayashi Maru, nothing strongly suggests deep sixing, or irretrievably disposing of anything. Clark didn't "deep-six" the process, he subverted it. The process isn't figuratively thrown overboard in water so deep it's nearly impossible to get it back. Substituting "deep-six" in the dialogue in the OP makes no sense at all - how do you deep-six a situation? I'm not the source of your DV btw. – ColleenV May 21 '16 at 19:52
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    No, I think equating to deep six with to Kobayashi Maru is wrong. There are lots of words that could fit into "I just ____ the whole process." but not all of them have the correct meaning. Deep six doesn't fit what we know about the Kobayashi Maru scenarios and it doesn't fit well in the initial conversation. To deep-six is not the same thing as to subvert. – ColleenV May 21 '16 at 20:11
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The kobayashi maru actually involved changing the process before the test. To apply it here might involve setting up a standard that assumes the customer will be purchasing in the future and expecting to get credit for returned product. If the process was changed 'before' the simulation it would effectively undo the action.

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