Surf Words Are Up! The Language of Surfing

Stand up paddle surfing on the huge waves off Sunset Beach

Since hitting the waves hit the mainstream in the early 1960s, surfing has spawned an entire culture — clothes, music, movies, and a bitchin’ lexicon.

While the act of surfing got its start by Polynesian fishermen thousands of years ago, the word surf is from the 17th century. Originally used to describe the coast of India, surf may come from an Indian language, or else is a variant of sough, a soft, rustling noise.

The verb to surf came about much later, around 1917. It was then, says HowStuffWorks, that surfing gained popularity with renowned boardsmen Duke Kahanamoku and George Freeth, often dubbed the “father of modern surfing” (and who passed away, sadly, at 35 during the 1918 flu pandemic). The word surfing entered English more than 40 years later, in the mid-1950s.

Of course surfing is nothing without a surfboard (or surfbort, as Bey would say). In Hawaii back in the day, the length of your board echoed your status in the community: the longer your board, the more important you were. Nowadays, surfers use a variety of sizes, depending on their needs.

According to SurfScience, the longboard is the most traditional and good for beginners; the shortboard “reinvented surfing in the 1970s”; and the funboard is wider than but not as long as the longboard. The fish is fish-shaped, the egg egg-shaped, and the gun is for “chasing big game,” ie big waves, and is also known as the rhino chaser or elephant gun. A whole collection of boards is a quiver.

Now that you’ve got your surfboard, you’ll need to get past the breaking waves. With a shortboard, you can duck dive, or push your board nose-first underwater, like a duck diving for food. With a longboard, you’ll have to turtle roll, which involves rolling your board upside down as the wave gets close, then right side up once the wave passes. (Turtles do indeed roll, specifically when they’re fighting or mating.)

Next is standing up. Are you regular foot? That means your left foot is forward, like most right-handed surfers. Or are you goofy-foot, right foot forward? Perhaps you can surf regular or goofy, in which case you’re a switch-foot.

As a novice surfer, you might get called lots of names. Grommet for instance, which might come from the Old French grommet, “boy, young man,” or jake, perhaps from a 19th century meaning, “rustic lout.” You might get branded a kook, a barney, or a gremlin. And watch out if someone dubs you a quimby: they could mean a beginning surfer but they could also mean jerk or loser, especially if you’re guilty of snaking, or “stealing” a wave from a fellow surfer although he has the right of way.

Another jerk-term is hodad, someone who comes to the beach with surf gear but never surfs. Where the word comes from is unknown although one theory says it’s a contraction of hoodlum.

Surfing enthusiasts in general are surf-bums, surfies, and waxheads, referring to the wax used to make surfboards less slippery. If you’re a a woman who surfs, you might be referred to as a gurfer, a girl surfer, or a wahine, a Hawaiian term for a Polynesian woman as well as surf slang for a female surfer.

Another Hawaiian surfing term is big kahuna, which originally referred to a prominent priest or sage in Hawaii, says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), and now means an expert surfer, a really big wave, or any bigwig. Kahuna comes from the Hawaiian word for shaman or wizard.

Now how about those moves? Ride with all 10 toes over the nose of your board and you’re hanging ten. Cheat with just one foot and you’re cheating five. Performing superbly? You’re shredding.

Do a misterioso and you’re bending over with your head hidden in your hands. Perform a quasimodo and you’re hunched — like Victor Hugo’s hunchback of Notre Dame — at the front of your board with “head down, one arm forward and one arm back,” as per the OED. As for the name Quasimodo, that comes from a Latin Easter psalm, quasi modo geniti infantes, “as newborn babes,” referring to the hunchback’s being abandoned as an infant at Notre Dame on Easter Sunday.

Even for experts accidents are unavoidable. When a surfer is rubbished, she’s tipped off a wave, resulting in a wipeout, which, thanks to the Surfaris, most of us are familiar with. A tombstone is what a wiped-out surfer’s surfboard looks like, and getting rag dolled means getting shaken like, you guessed it, a rag doll by a powerful wave.

A wave that might rag doll you is a very large one known as the pipeline, which also refers to the hollow part of such a wave. A greenie is a large wave before it breaks. Small yet perfect waves are nugs, perhaps from the meaning a piece of marijuana, while waves too small to surf are ankle busters.

Point break (in addition to being a movie) refers to “a long-lasting type of wave,” says the OED, which forms “when the swell moves around the land almost at a right angle to the beach and a break which begins near the point gradually progresses along the wave.”

A tube is a wave with a hollow space. Macks or mackers are giant tubes and get their name from the idea that they’re so big, you could drive a Mack truck through them. The inside of a tube is known as the green room or glass house due to its appearance, as well as the pope’s living room, perhaps with the idea that the inside of a wave is a heavenly place.

Tube also gives us tubular: tubular waves are excellent for riding, therefore tubular means excellent. Other “excellent” slang terms that have transcended waves are radical, surfing that’s challenging or extreme, and gnarly, conditions that are dangerous.

Finally, while cowabunga has become associated with surf culture, it didn’t begin that way. The interjection originated in 1954 as a fake Native American word on The Howdy Doody Show. A character, Chief Thunderthud, used the term as an “exclamation of surprise and anger.” By the 1960s, cowabunga was used as a “shout of triumph” by surfers, and by the late 1980s had “spread worldwide” with The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Now what are you waiting for? Put on your wettie, get out the longboard, and catch some waves.

[Photo via Flickr: “Stand up paddle surfing on the huge waves off Sunset Beach,” CC BY 2.0 by Peggy2012CREATIVELENZ]

12 Favorite World Cup Words

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We wouldn’t call ourselves rabid fans of soccer (or football, depending on your side of the Atlantic), but then that guy bit that other guy (and gave us Suarezing), the Colombia team danced after every goal, and Tim Howard made 16 record-breaking saves (and while he couldn’t save the U.S. team, he did save the internet). Now we’re hooked.

And we’re celebrating the best way we know how: with words. Here are 12 of our favorites from the world of the World Cup.

corridor of uncertainty

“The Netherlands could not have gone much closer when a ball scythed along the corridor of uncertainty, somehow eluding two Dutch attackers and three Costa Rica defenders, only to fall to the feet of van Persie.”

Callum Hamilton, “Netherlands vs. Costa Rica: Final score 0-0, Dutch win on penalties after dramatic finale,” SB Nation, July 5, 2014

The corridor of uncertainty is a pass delivered into the area between the goalkeeper and the last line of defense. The phrase originates from cricket and refers to “an area where a cricket ball can pitch during a delivery” and where “a batsman struggles most to determine whether to play forward or back, or whether to leave the delivery.”

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), corridor of uncertainty, which seems to have originated in the mid-1980s, is particularly associated with English cricketer and commentator Geoffrey Boycott.

dummy

“First, Thomas Muller managed to fall over as he attempted to dummy the ball, before Toni Kroos played in a shocking chip that was easily swept up by the Algerian defence.”

Hannah Duncan, “Thomas Muller ‘fall’ in German free-kick ‘fail’ was all a big ruse, reveals Benedikt Howedes,” Metro, July 1, 2014

To dummy in soccer means to deceive your opponent into thinking you’re going to pass, shoot, or receive the ball, and then do something different. The OED says this term originated in the 1950s.

The meaning comes from the sense of dummy, “an imitation of a real or original object, intended to be used as a practical substitute,” which perhaps comes from the bridge or whist term referring to “an imaginary player represented by an exposed ‘hand’, managed by and serving as partner to one of the players.”

These senses seem to ultimately come from the original meaning of dummy, a dumb or mute person. The Old English dumb means “silent, unable to speak,” and comes from the Proto-Indo-European dheubh-, “confusion, stupefaction, dizziness.” Dheubh- originates from the root dheu-, “dust, mist, vapor, smoke,” perhaps with the idea of “defective perception or wits,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.

flopping

flopping

“The practice of the flop is a tried-and-true method of manipulating each game’s referee to make calls go your way by aggressively exaggerating fouls or the appearance of fouls.”

Eric Levenson, “Dissecting American Soccer’s Hatred of the Flop Is a World Cup Tradition,” The Wire, June 16, 2014

Flopping, also known as diving as well as simulation, if you’re FIFA, means pretending to be fouled, and is usually evinced by exaggerated falling and howls of pain.

We couldn’t find when the term flopping originated exactly. It also applies to basketball, and in 1963 Frank Ramsey described his “deceptive” techniques to Sports Illustrated, although he never calls it flopping. He says the most reliable “eye-catcher” is the pratfall. Perhaps flopping, with the idea of flopping over, comes from the these exaggerated falls.

[Photo via The Wire]

jackgiantkiller

giant-killing

“They now take on Greece, the runners up in Group C, in a round-of-16 match in the early hours of Monday morning and will be strongly fancied to continue their giant-killing run.”

Michael Lynch, “World Cup 2014: North and Central American region provides success stories of the tournament,” The Sydney Morning Herald, June 28, 2014

Giant-killing refers to, in sports, “the defeat of a team by a much weaker opponent.” The phrase may come from the story of David and Goliath, although the OED’s earliest citations refer to “Jack the giant killer” and “giant-killing Jack” of Jack and the Beanstalk.

[Illustration: “The Chronicle of the Valiant Feats“]

group of death

“Advancing out of the Group of Death is significant, but playing in the second round of the World Cup is not.”

Mike Foss, “Just escaping the group of death isn’t good enough for the U.S. at the World Cup anymore,” USA Today, June 27, 2014

A group of death is “a group in a multi-stage tournament which is unusually competitive, because the number of strong competitors in the group is greater than the number of qualifying places available for the next phase of the tournament.”

This term may come from the Spanish grupo de la muerte, which was coined by Mexican journalists in 1970.

Kop

“A favourite of the Kop – the Liverpool faithful – Suarez enjoyed an ambivalent relationship with rest of the Premiership fans who slowly warmed to his goal-scoring abilities but never forgot his other escapades.”

Siddharth Saxena, “Fifa bites back: Suarez gets nine-match ban,” The Times of India, June 27, 2014

Kop, short for Spion Kop, refers to the stadium terraces “attended by hardcore fans, particularly in the United Kingdom.” The original Spion Kop, which translates from Afrikaans as “spy hill,” is a mountain in South Africa and the site of the Battle of Spion Kop, which was fought during the Second Boer War.

Sports stadium terraces may have first been referred to as Spion Kop in the early 1900s, shortly after the battle, which seems to pre-date the OED’s citation of 1924.

lost the dressing room

“Kiss’ appointment was welcomed by the players – Rory Best said getting Kiss was ‘brilliant for Ulster Rugby’ – but amid talk Anscombe lost the dressing room, Kiss will have to breathe new life into the province.”

Tom Hamilton, “Ulster’s knock-on effect on Ireland,” ESPN Scrum, July 3, 2014

The term lost the dressing room refers to when a sports team’s “manager is deemed to have lost control and support of the players” and may soon get fired. The term may come from the idea that it’s in the dressing or locker room that the manager raises his players’ spirits.

magic sponge

“Kicking a football [on Jupiter] would be like kicking a lump of concrete. More than the magic sponge would be needed to sort out that injury.”

Stuart Clark, “Across the Universe,” The Guardian, June 11, 2014

The magic sponge is a seemingly ordinary sponge that has a miraculous “reviving effect on injured players.” The OED says it originated around 1961:

Consider what is said of players and ‘the magic sponge’. Of how they are supposed to go down on the slightest pretence and, with scarcely a squeeze from the sponge, continue playing vigorously within a matter of seconds.

nutmeg

“Higuain had poked the ball through his legs to set up the shooting chance. Ouch! That’s called ‘a nutmeg in soccer.’”

Don Cuddy, “On the World Cup: Costa Rica Nearly Pulls off Historic Upset,” South Coast Today, July 6, 2014

The nutmeg is a technique used in “soccer, field hockey or basketball, in which a player rolls or throws the ball through an opponent’s legs.” The OED’s earliest citation is from 1968:

Three times I pushed the ball between the legs of the same full-back. This is the worst thing a forward can do to a defender because it makes him look foolish; and if, as I did, the forward then shouts ‘Nut Meg’ (the traditional taunt) the defender’s ego takes a sharp knock.

It’s not clear why this maneuver is called the nutmeg. Wikipedia offers a few theories: that it comes from slang meaning of nutmeg as “testicles”; that nutmeg is Cockney rhyming slang for leg; and that nutmeg at one point came to mean duping someone because nutmegs “were such a valuable commodity that unscrupulous exporters were to pull a fast one by mixing a helping of wooden replicas into the sacks being shipped to England.”

rabona

rabona

“Then, with no-one around him and time to pick out a man, he went for an unnecessary, extravagant rabona pass.”

Sam Cunningham, “Angel Di Maria played one of the worst match-winning performances in history,” The Daily Mail, July 2, 2014

A rabona is “a method of kicking the football whereby the kicking leg is wrapped around the back of the standing leg.” (Not clear on what that means? This compilation might help.)

Apparently the first to perform the rabona was Argentina’s Ricardo Infante in 1948, and the Argentinian magazine, El Grafico, was the first to come up with the term. Their cover showed Infante (which means “infant” in Spanish) “dressed as a pupil with the caption ‘Infante played hooky,’” where rabona means to play hooky or skip school.

[Photo via Flickr, CC BY 2.0 by Kiernan Clarke]

tifo

tifo

Tifos are sort of a continental European thing — you’ll especially see the Italians throwing up large choreographed displays to show their support for their teams.”

Kathy Willens, “Where is Soccer City, USA?” Kens5.com, June 16, 2014

A tifo is “a form of choreography displayed by supporters on the terraces of an arena or stadium, where they make a large-scale pattern or picture by holding up, or wearing, various materials.”

The tifo originated in Italy and Southern Europe, and is a shortened form of tifosi, Italian for “fans.” See also Ultras.

[Photo via Flickr, CC BY 2.0 by psmag.net]

tiki-taka

“In its six years of global supremacy, [the Spanish team] perfected an innovative way of playing the game, known as tiki-taka, which has players string together a series of rapid, short passes, many of them on first touch, denying their opponents the ball for long periods and, ultimately, wearing them down.”

John Cassidy, “Adios to the tiki-taka men,” The New Yorker, June 18, 2014

Tiki-taka is soccer style “characterised by short passing and movement, working the ball through various channels, and maintaining possession.” The word tiki-taka is imitative and may translate as “touch-touch” in Spanish.

While the term was already in colloquial use in Spanish football, perhaps originating with retired midfielder Javier Clement, Spanish broadcaster Spanish broadcaster Andrés Montes is credited with coining and popularizing the phrase.

[Lead photo via The Telegraph]

Sochi Slang: Our Favorite Winter Olympic Lingo

We can hardly believe it but the Olympics are almost over. In addition to keeping up with the latest on problems in Sochi, Olympic fashion (our favorites include the Norwegian curling team’s pants, skeleton competitors’ wicked helmets, and this Mariachi ski uniform), and oh yeah events, we’ve been keeping our ears open for fun slang terms. Here are our 12 favorites.

chicken salad

“There’s more to the Winter Olympics than wongbangers, tucks and chicken salads.”

Lawrence Baretto and Aimee Lewis, “Snowboarder Looking for Love,” BBC, February 19, 2014

Chicken salad in this context is not a sandwich filler but “when a snowboarder puts their hands between their legs and grabs the heel-side edge of the board,” according to The Telegraph .

We have no idea where this phrase comes from (and neither does the internet, at least as far as we can tell). All we know is that the chicken salad is more difficult than the melon (short for melancholy) and may be combined with a roast beef (“Back hand grabs through the legs to the heel edge and put head through legs”) to make a beef carpaccio.

double Japan

“Then, left side double corked 1260 double Japan on the first booter, to switch right side dub 1080 tail grab, and a switch right side triple corked 1260 Japan on the big booter.”

Josh Brown, “Junio strong candidate to be Canadian flag-bearer for putting team first,” Guelph Mercury, February 13, 2014

Did you get all that? Let us help: a double Japan, according to NPR, is, in slopestyle, a “a grab with one hand behind your foot, one hand in front on the same ski.” A Japan — which also seems to be known as a Japan air — is “a type of grab (when a skier grabs his skis while in the air).”

Other grabs include the China or Korean air (depending if you’re on the west or east coast, respectively), which are apparently earlier versions of the Japan air, and the Taipan air, which has nothing to do with the James Clavell novel but is a blend of tail and Japan air.

flutz

“The skater must take off using the more difficult outside edge. If she doesn’t, the jump is considered easier and gets fewer points. We call that a ‘flutz.’”

Robert Samuels, “Your complete guide to Olympic women’s figure skating,” The Washington Post, February 19, 2014

A flutz, says Nancy Friedman, is “an incorrectly executed lutz jump” that has devolved into a flip jump. Hence, the word is a blend of flip and lutz. The lutz is named for Australian skater Alois Lutz, the inventor of the jump.

huck it

“As every snowboarder knows, when Morgan said he figured he would ‘just huck it,’ he meant that he decided to go all out with a big jump, throwing his body wildly down the hill.”

Ben Zimmer, “An Olympic Snowboarder said ‘Huck It,’ and the BBC Freaked out,” Slate, February 9, 2014

According to Zimmer, the origins of huck or huck it are unclear but huck “has been developing as a verb for at least 25 years in a number of outdoor sports, as a way of talking about hurling an object or one’s own body with great force.”

BBC thought British snowboarder Billy Morgan uttered another four-letter word that ends in u-c-k, cut short his interview, and apologized for Morgan’s “offensive” language.

K-Fed

“In the world of skiing, the ladies took to the Slopestyle course with a plethora of tricks up their wizard sleeves, including my new favorite sports trick ever named after my #1 yo-yo dieter and tank-topped love, the K-Fed.”

Michelle Collins, “Winter Olympics Day 6 Recap: Welcome to the Winterfell Games,” Vanity Fair, February 12, 2014

The K-Fed is a rail trick, or a trick performed on an obstacle such as a rail, specifically, “a front switch-up blind 270 out.” What the heck does that mean? Perhaps it’s best to take a look.

Although it’s unclear why, the K-Fed is named after Kevin Federline, “dancer, rapper, fashion model,” and erstwhile husband of pop diva Britney Spears. The Britney, by the way, is “a blind switch-up front 270 out.”

kiggle-caggle

“On keen days the concave keeps the ice well; and on dull ones the convex lends itself readily to ‘kiggle-caggle’ — or the oscillating motion which skilful players who want to reduce friction communicate to their stone on very baugh ice.”

John Kerry, History of Curling, 1890

Kiggle-caggle is curling term that seems to have been around since at least 1890, as per the History of Curling. While we couldn’t find an etymology (if anyone can enlighten us, please do so in the comments), we’re guessing the term is imitative in origin.

kiss and cry

“Long a cherished, finger-biting scene on telecasts, the kiss-and-cry zone holds skaters and their coaches captive beside the rink, with cameras in their faces, as they nervously wait for, and then receive, word of their fate from the judges.”

Mary Pilon, “With Team Skating, It’s Now Kiss, Cry, Squeeze In,” The New York Times, February 8, 2014

Kiss and cry, referring to the “the place where skaters waited with their coaches to receive their marks from the judges marks,” says Slate, “was coined by a Finnish skating official named Jane Erkko” in the 1970s. Erko and some young skaters “noticed that the competitors kissed and cried while waiting for their scores,” and the term “remained a joke among the skaters and with Jane as the place where the skaters would sit down after skating their programs.”

shred the gnar

“It’s also a powerful reality check for those who take their physically-intact bodies for granted — or assume people with disabilities can’t shred the gnar.”

Sam Laird, “Canadian Paralympics Ad is a Powerful Reality Check,” Mashable, February 4, 2014

Shredding the gnar refers to skiing a gnarly or difficult terrain, says NPR. To shred means “to ride aggressively.” In our cursory search, we couldn’t find a year of origin for this meaning, nor if it came before or after the meaning “to play very fast (especially guitar solos in rock and metal genres).”

Gnarly was originally a surfing term meaning “dangerous; challenging,” perhaps “with reference to the appearance of rough sea,” says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The term originated in the late 1970s.

spoice

“In a sport that prides itself on linguistic innovation (Mr. Kotsenburg, for instance, is fond of the all-purpose approbation ‘spoice’), ‘stoked’ is an old standby to describe a snowboarder’s feeling of euphoria about a good run.”’

Ben Zimmer, “‘Stoked,’ From 1960s Surfers to Sochi,” Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2014

Spoice is apparently “an exclamation of gratitude towards life,” and has been popularized these Olympics by American snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg. We’re guessing the word is an alteration of spice, perhaps in reference to the expression, “variety is the spice of life,” which has been attributed to poet William Cowper.

twizzle

“If you have been watching figure skating throughout the 2014 Winter Olympics, it is impossible not to notice the term ‘twizzle’ that is constantly being dropped by Tara Lipinksi and Johnny Weir throughout the Sochi Games.”

Jose Sanchez, “Sochi Olympics, ice dancing: What is a twizzle?” Fansided, February 17, 2014

Originally referring to simply “a turning, twisting or spinning motion,” a twizzle is, in ice dancing, “three consecutive turns across the ice,” says The Wire. According to Pilar Bosley, a former competitive dancer:

Three turns in general aren’t considered one of the most difficult moves in skating, but when a twizzle is done properly the three turns are done so quickly that the naked eye can’t really tell that that turn is happening.

There are increasing degrees of twizzle-difficulty, such as the catch-foot twizzle, in which the skaters “hop into the first twizzle and then immediately catch their blade with one hand.”

The word twizzle may be an alteration of twissel, “double; twofold,” or else may be an imitative formation suggested by twist, says the OED.

Wagner face

“Ashley Wagner sparked memes and #wagnerface hashtags across the internet after she looked absolutely shocked when her score was revealed at the figure skating competition at Sochi Saturday.”

Brandi Fowler, “Move Over McKayla Maroney, Figure Skater Ashley Wagner Is ‘Not Impressed’ By the Olympics Either,” E! Online, February 9, 2014

While gymnast McKayla Maroney’s “not impressed” expression was the meme of choice for the 2012 London Olympics, Wagner face, referring to figure skater Ashley Wagner’s candid mein, is apparently the 2014 pick.

YOLO flip

“Whether it’s learning to ride a bike, walking in high heels on snow or doing a YOLO flip on the half-pipe, you have your cerebellum to thank.”

Brooke Horton, “Why Some Olympic Athletes Choke, While Others Are Unstoppable,” PolicyMic, February 19, 2014

The YOLO flip, “a double-cork 1440 — four full twists packed inside of two flips,” was invented and named by Swiss snowboarder Iouri Podladtchikov (who goes by the nickname I-Pod). It was also the trick that caused American Shaun White to lose the gold to the 25-year old I-Pod.

And in case you’ve been living in a snow bank all year, YOLO stands for “you only live once.”

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by Stefan Krasowski]

Word Soup: The Ancient Greek Games

800px-Olympos

The summer Olympic Games began in London this week, and we’ve  already been enjoying all types of Olympian goodies. We learned about the British origins of the modern Olympic games; 27 things we didn’t know about the Olympics; 12 great Olympic nicknames; and how to talk like a Brit if we happen to be in London. In the meantime, we’ve also gathered 10 of our favorite words from the ancient Greek games, Olympic or otherwise.

agon

“The ancient Greek Olympics took place during a time of truce declared specifically for the Games. The competitions were called ‘agons’ (as in ‘agony’) and they sometimes involved fights to the death. There was no second or third place in the Greek Olympics, no silver or bronze medals. This was, like war, winner take all.”

Ronald R. Thomas, “What the Olympics teach us about the role of higher education,” The Seattle Times, February 17, 2006

Agon is “in Greek antiquity, a contest for a prize, whether of athletes in the games or of poets, musicians, painters, and the like.” Agon comes from agein, “to lead,” and gives us the word agony, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, as well as antagonist and protagonist. An agonistarch is “one who trained persons to compete in public games and contests.”

diaulos

“The inscription indicates that the Sebasta had standard Olympic events. The foot races were the stadion (on a track of about 190 meters), diaulos (two laps of the track), and a race in which runners wore a helmet and shin guards and carried a shield.”

Malin Banyasz and Mark Rose, “The Augustan Games of Naples,” Archaeology, April 30, 2008

Diaulos refers to “a double course, in which the racers passed around a goal at the end of the course, and returned to the starting-place.” The word translates from the Greek as “double pipe,” and also refers to “an ancient Greek musical instrument, consisting of two single flutes, either similar or different, so joined at the mouthpiece that they could be played together.”

discobolus

“If we may trust the old marbles, — my friend with his arm stretched over my head, above there, (in plaster of Paris,) or the discobolus, whom one may see at the principal sculpture gallery of this metropolis, — those Greek young men were of supreme beauty.”

“The Professor at the Breakfast-Table,” The Atlantic Monthly, December 1859

A discobolus is “a thrower of the discus; one engaged in the exercise of throwing the discus.”  When capitalized,  the word refers to “a famous ancient statue by Myron (fifth century B.C.), representing a man in the act of throwing a discus.”

Roma - Museo Nazionale Romano a Palazzo Massimo

Roma – Museo Nazionale Romano a Palazzo Massimo

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by Cebete]

Discobolus translates from the Greek as “discus thrower.” Bolos is related to ballein, which gives us ballistic and hyperbole. Disco- is indeed related to disco, “popular dance music, especially of the late 1970s,” in that disco also referred to the discus-shaped “phonograph record.”

epinicion

“An Epinicion is an ancient song of victory sung at the conclusion of a triumphant battle. Greeks would sing the song as they walked through the battlefield sorting the wounded from the dead.”

A celebration of 20th century music,” Lodi News-Sentinel, April 25, 1991

An epinicion is “a song of triumph; a poem in celebration of a victory; especially, in ancient Greece, a poem in honor of a victory in an athletic contest, as at the Olympic, Pythian, Nemean, or Isthmian games.” Epinicion, also spelled epinikion, contains the Greek nike, “victory.” Nike refers to both a sneaker brand and “a type of U.S. defensive surface-to-air missiles.”

halma

“The ‘dolichos,’ or javelin-throwing, was added in 716; and as early as 708 B.C. with ‘pale’ (wrestling), ‘halma‘ (broad jump) and ‘disks’ (quoit), the ‘pentathlon,’ or ‘five events’ became complete.”

Olympic Games, Old and New,” Albany Review, April-September, 1908

The halma, which translates from the Greek as “jump,” is “the long jump, with weights in the hands.” Halma is also “a game for two persons, played on a special board of 256 squares with 19 men apiece, the object of each player being to drive out his opponent’s men from their position and to replace them with his own.”

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A game of halma

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by dorineruter]

hederate

“No doubt the classic allusions to the laurel Apollo, the wig of Bacchus, and the rose of Venus, point to the three classes of poetry, Epic, Anacreontic, and Erotic; but is it known that the kings in that day ranked their poets thus, or one poet to pass through the subordinate steps before he won the laurel crown? I certainly never heard of Poets Hederate or Poets Roseate before, and should be much obliged by any relative to such appellations.”

Notes and Queries, July-December 1860

Hederate means “to adorn or crown with ivy, as a victor in the Olympian games.” The word comes from the Latin hedera, a type of ivy, which is related to the Greek khandanein, “to hold, contain.” Hederaceous means “pertaining to, resembling, composed of, or producing ivy.”

hellanodic

“Near the foot of the throne is a table, at which the scribe appears writing in the Olympic records of noble deeds the name, family, and country of the conqueror; near this table a victor in the foot-race, having already received a branch of palm, which he holds in his hand, crowned by an inferior Hellanodic; next him is a footracer who ran armed with a helmet spear and shield.”

The Penny Magazine, March 24, 1838

A hellanodic is “in Greek antiquity, one of the judges at the Olympic games, who awarded the prizes.” Hellanodic comes from the Greek Hellen, “Greek,”and dike, “judgment, justice, usage, custom.”

lampadedromy

“Herodotus compares this method to the Athenian lampadedromy, or torch race, a relay race in which the contestant who arrived first at the goal with his torch still burning won the prize for his side.”

The Odd Measure,” Munsey’s Magazine, June 1918

A lampadedromy is “a torch-race,” in which “each contestant carried a lighted torch, and the prize was won by him who first reached the goal with his torch unextinguished.” The word comes from the Greek lampein, “to shine” (which also gives us lamp and lantern) and dromos, “a running.” Dromos also gives us syndrome, literally “running together”; palindrome, literally “running back again”; and dromedary, which comes from the Greek dromas kamelos, “running camel.”

Olympics

“It is understood the IOC was initially reluctant to allow the government the use of the word Olympics, which is protected by myriad copyright legislation, but agreed because the British Olympic Association (BOA) was to be the lead authority in co-ordinating and bringing together established well run competitions and adding to those to form regional and national Games.”

Jacquelin Magnay, “IOC gets caught in middle of ‘School Olympics’ dispute,” The Telegraph, December 19, 2010

The Olympics is short for the Olympic Games. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, Olympic came into English during the 16th century and referred to Olympos, a “town or district in Elis in ancient Greece, where athletic contests in honor of Olympian Zeus were held 776 B.C.E. and every four years thereafter.” This is “not the same place as Mount Olympus, abode of the gods, which was in Thessaly.” The ancient Olympic Games were part of the Panhellenic Games, “four separate sports festivals held in ancient Greece.” The modern Olympics were a revival that began in 1896.

An Olympiad is “an interval of four years between celebrations of the Olympic Games, by which the ancient Greeks reckoned dates.”

pankration

“Wrestling, boxing, and the pankration, a combination of the two, were known as ‘heavy’ events because, without weight classes or time limits, bigger athletes dominated. In the pankration, punching, kicking, choking, finger breaking, and blows to the genitals were allowed; only biting and eye gouging were prohibited.”

Donald G. Kyle, “Winning at Olympia,” Archaeology, July/August 1996

Pankration is “an Ancient Greek martial art combining aspects of boxing and wrestling, introduced in the Greek Olympic games in 648 BC.” Pankration comes from the Greek pan, “all,” plus kratos, “strength,” and may be a precursor to mixed martial arts.

Word Soup: Let’s Play Boru!

Spring season signals the start of another season: baseball. The Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s are opening their 2012 season today in Japan, and we though we’d celebrate with a Word Soup dedicated to Japanese baseball. Ready? Pure boru!

besuboru

“Now that each of the combatants in baseball’s most-storied rivalry features a Japanese superstar, the effort has begun to fuel the Sox-Yankees feud across the world in besuboru-crazy Japan.”

Jenn Abelson, “Making Sox-Yanks hit home in Japan,” Boston Globe, April 15, 2007

Besuboru is a transliteration of the English baseball. However, according to Robert Whiting in his book, You Gotta Have Wa, during World War II “American baseball terminology was banned,” and besuboru became yakyu, “fielding ball.”

doryoku

“When Japanese legend Sadaharu Oh – whose 868 home runs are out of reach even for the disgraced Barry Bonds – signs an autograph, he often precedes his name with the word ‘doryoku,’ which means ‘effort.'”

Gordon Edes, “Little League fundamentally different,” Boston Globe, March 23, 2008

Other qualities valued in Japanese baseball are nintai, “patience,” and choubatsu, “discipline.”

gaijin

“”The craziest thing about 2009 was just how everyone was standing behind a gaijin (foreign) manager, really,’ says Rubin. ‘I mean, living in Japan as a gaijin is always a little bit weird, people have a lot of prejudice against foreigners, but the Lotte fans got together and started that campaign and got that much signatures.'”

Daigo Fujiwara, “Valentine left his mark on Japanese baseball,” Boston Globe, December 8, 2011

A gaijin is a non-Japanese person. The word translates from the Japanese as “outside or foreign (gai) person (jin).” Gaikokujin is a more polite form of the word.

ganbare

“In 2007, he and his father became fans of the Dodgers’ Japanese pitcher, Takashi Saito. ‘Saito ganbare! Saito ganbare!’ they’d chant from the cheap seats. ‘Saito, let’s go! Saito, let’s go!’”

Kurt Streeter, “For Dodgers’ interpreter, his job is a thrill beyond words,” Los Angeles Times, October 2, 2009

Ganbare!

Ganbare! by jugarsan

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by jugarsan]

Ganbare roughly translates as “hang in there,” and is said “to encourage someone who is working hard, such as running in a marathon or studying.” Also ganbatte.

gattsu pozu

“Japanese also look askance at such long-standing American baseball customs as chewing tobacco and spitting it on the dugout floor—’disgusting’ is how cleanliness-conscious Japanese players commonly describe it. [American players] find confusing the myriad unwritten rules of behavior that major leaguers have concocted to protect their all-important pride: No bunting or stealing with a big lead is one; no crowd-pleasing fist in the air (gattsu pozu) is another.”

Robert Whiting, “Lost in translation,” Sports Illustrated, March 22, 2004

Gattsu pozu is a transliteration of guts-pose, which may have less to do with guts or courage than with former world boxing champion, Guts Ishimatsu, who after winning fights “would pump his fist up and down in the air.”

homu ran

“In America they call it baseball. In Japan it’s pronounced besuboru, but the form of the game in both countries is identical: umpires, nine players, walks, strikeouts, double plays and, of course, home runs (homu ran).”

Barry Hillenbrand, “The name of the game is besuboru,” Time, September 25, 1989

Homu ran is a transliteration of home run.

01 Japanese baseball Bromide, from the collection of John Gall

01 Japanese baseball Bromide, from the collection of John Gall

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by 50 Watts]

kyojin

“The Giants play in the Tokyo Dome, which uses enough electricity, even during day games, to power 6,000 homes. The idea of the vaunted Kyojin turning on the lights, running the air conditioning and playing baseball while residents in the surrounding Kanto region sit at home by candlelight, did not sit well with the general public.”

Robert Whiting, “After quake and tsunami, public split on baseball’s return to Japan,” Sports Illustrated, April 11, 2011

Kyojin, which translates from the Japanese as “giant person,” is another name for the Yomiuri Giants.

kokoyakyu

“[The documentary] ‘Kokoyakyu‘ (the word means high school baseball) follows two teams on their roads to Koshien.”

Anita Gates, “In ‘Kokoyakyu,’ Youth Baseball, Japanese Style,” The New York Times, July 4, 2006

While koko may seem like a reduplication, it refers to two different characters that are homonyms, 高, “high or tall,” and 校, “school.” Yakyu translates as “fielding ball.”

Kōshien

Kōshien isn’t a word that registers on the American radar screen. But it was Kōshien — the annual site of Japan’s riveting national high school baseball tournament — that turned Daisuke Matsuzaka into a legend. When he was still just a high school senior.”

Jayson Stark, “Matsuzaka’s arrival becomes an international incident,” ESPN.com, February 15, 2007

Kōshien refers to Hanshin Koshien Stadium. Kōshien (甲子園) “comes from the Sexagenary cycle system,” where the “year of the stadium’s founding, 1924, was the first year kōshi (甲子) in the cycle.” En (園) translates as “garden or park.”

manrui homa

“On Thursday, [Matsui] sent an inside, shin-high fastball from Kyle Lohse into the right-field seats at Citizens Bank Park for his first career grand slam – ‘manrui homa’ in Japanese – and lacked only a single for the cycle.”

Annie Stapleton, “Fresh air does job for Matsui,” Boston Globe, October 6, 2007

Manrui translates from the Japanese as “full or loaded (man) bases (rui).”

[Video: CC BY 2.0 by PoiseWinsTitles]

oendan

“Each Japanese team has an oendan — a highly organized cheering block that is part regulars who travel with the team and part local fans who bring out their bass drums when their team comes to town.”

Stephen Ellsesser, “Yakyu means baseball: Fan devotion,” MLB.com, September 22, 2006

Oendan translates as “cheering squad” or “cheering section.”

pure boru

“But the best thing about the Japanese game, perhaps, is that come opening day next year, the cry of ‘Pure boru!’ is guaranteed to ring out across the land.”

Robert Whiting, “Japan Becoming the Land of the Rising Fastball,” Palm Beach Post News, October 18, 1993

Pure boru is a transliteration of play ball.

sayonara homu ran

“My personal favorite so far is the sayonara homuran (walkoff home run).”

Teddy Panos, “No matter the language, spring training is terrific time of year,” The Sun, February 13, 2007

While homu ran is a transliteration of the English home run, sayonara is Japanese for goodbye. A walk-off home run is “a home run that ends the game.”

shinjin

“Enthusiastically received during that trip were two of the Red Sox rookies (‘shinjin’ in Japanese) from the 2007 team, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima, the first-ever Japanese players to join the Red Sox.”

Rockwell and the Red Sox,” The Herald News, June 19, 2008

Shinjin translates from the Japanese as “new (shin) person (jin).” The transliterated form of rookie is rukii.

shuto

Question: “People say Matsuzaka’s slider is devastating and tops out at 90. Is that actually a cutter instead? And how about his ‘shuto’? Is it synonym of sinker in Japanese?”

Robert Whiting: “Yes on the slider. The shuto is a fast cutter and sometimes it breaks down. The Americans used to say shooter back in the 20’s.”

Japanese baseball expert Robert Whiting’s Matsuzaka chat,” Boston Globe, November 21, 2006

Shuto is a transliteration of shooter, apparently an old name for the cutter, a fastball “that moves sideways in the air, or off the pitch, because it has been cut.”

suketto

“If gaijin have historically been asked to fit in, to surrender some part of themselves and their expectations to the experience of a new culture, on and off the field, they have also been asked, expected, to stand out. There is a Japanese term, suketto, which translates roughly to ‘helper.’ The American-born players are suketto, hired to be difference makers, to produce.”

Eric Neel, “Gaijin no longer means ‘outsider,’” ESPN.com, February 28, 2007

According to Robert Whiting in his book, The Meaning of Ichiro: The New Wave from Japan and the Transformation of Our National Pastime, the word suketto implies that “that one is there not as a member of the group but as an outsider with special skills or expertise to impart.” The term has been “applied not only to foreign ballplayers but to engineers, technicians, bond traders and others in the long string of experts Japan has employed to raise its level of competition.”

takoyaki

“More adventurous eaters might try Wann’s takoyaki; pleasingly squishy orbs of grilled octopus are sprinkled with bonito flakes that bob and ‘dance’ when heated. A popular festival food, takoyaki is served throughout Japan from temples to baseball parks.”

Eve M. Tai, “Japanese izakaya brings snacking culture to Seattle,” The Seattle Times, September 20, 2009

P4193466

Photo by enersauce

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by enersauce]

Takoyaki translates as “fried (yaki) octopus (tako).” Other Japanese ballpark treats include bento boxes, soba noodles, ramen, and unusually flavored ice cream. Yakitori, which translates as “fried chicken,” refers to fried and skewered food in general, and is also known as kushiyaki, “skewer fried.”

wa

Wa was reflected in yakyu [baseball] in other ways, like uniform playing styles, a mostly conciliatory players’ union and the paucity of player agents and heated salary disputes, even though players’ salaries were typically one-fifth to one-sixth of those of their North American counterparts.”

Robert Whiting, “The Concept of Wa,” PBS.com

Wa translates as “group harmony” and is also “the oldest recorded name of Japan.”

yakyu

“The Classic’s slogan is ‘Baseball Spoken Here.’ In this case, it’s yakyu, which in Japanese means ‘field ball.’”

Japan Beats Cuba in First World Baseball Classic,” The New York Times, March 26, 2006

Baseball in Japan was known as besuboru till World War II when the term was changed to yakyu. Now both terms seem to be used.

Word Soup-er Bowl

Welcome to this special Super Bowl installment of Word Soup!

While some of you will be rooting for one team or the other this Sunday, what we’re excited about are the ads, and those funny, interesting, and ridiculous words associated with those ads. To celebrate, we’ve rounded up some words from Super Bowl ads of the past.

1984

Announcer: “On January 24, Apple computer will introduce Macintosh, and you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”

“1984,” Apple Macintosh, 1984

1984 refers to George Orwell’s dystopian novel of the same name, which takes place in “a world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance, and incessant public mind control.” Citizens “are subordinated to the totalitarian cult of personality of Big Brother, the deified Party leader who rules with a philosophy that decries individuality and reason as thoughtcrimes.” In contrast, the Macintosh symbolizes freedom, independent-thinking, and individualism, ironic today considering the proliferation of Apple products and the cult of personality around Steve Jobs.

In 2007, a controversial internet ad mashed up the original Apple commercial with a speech from Hilary Clinton, casting Clinton as Big Brother.

cat herder

Cowboy: “Being a cat herder is probably about the toughest thing I think I’ve ever done.”

“Cat Herders,” Electronic Data Systems, 2000

Herding cats “refers to an attempt to control or organize a class of entities which are uncontrollable or chaotic,” and “implies a task that is extremely difficult or impossible to do, primarily due to chaotic factors.” The term may have originated in the technology industry in the mid 1980s. “Managing senior programmers is like herding cats.”

connectile dysfunction

Announcer: “You know the feeling. You can’t take care of business the way others do. It’s called connectile dysfunction, a condition caused by inadequate broadband coverage.”

“Connectile Dysfunction,” Sprint, 2007

Connectile dysfunction plays on the medical term, erectile dysfunction, “the inability of a man to obtain or sustain an erection.”

creamed

Joe Namath: “I’m so excited. I’m gonna get creamed!”

“Joe Namath and Farrah Fawcett,” Noxzema, 1973

The word creamed here has a double-meaning: “badly beaten; lost by a considerable margin” and having cream applied to one’s person.

drinkability

Woman: “I do get a hint of drinkability right away.”
Man: “Does my pen have writability?”

“Meeting,” Budweiser, 2009

Drinkability is “the extent to which something is drinkable,” and prior to this Budweiser campaign may have referred mainly to wine. The ad campaign may poke fun at wine tasting and formal terms such as drinkability and ageability, or aging potential.

fandemonium

Announcer: “Monster.com and the NFL are searching for a fan amongst fans to become a part of NFL history. The director of fandemonium will announce the pick at the NFL draft.”

“Director of Fandemonium,” Monster.com, 2009

Fandemonium is a blend of fan and pandemonium, and refers to the “wild uproar or noise” created by fans. Fan may be a shortening of fanatic, “a person affected by zeal or enthusiasm, particularly on religious subjects,” which ultimately comes from the Latin fanum, “temple.” But the word fan may also be influenced by the fancy, “all of a class who exhibit and cultivate any peculiar taste or fancy,” especially for prize fighting, and is attested by 1735.

Pandemonium comes from Pandæmonium, the capital of Hell in Paradise Lost, the epic poem by John Milton. The word contains the Greek pan, “all,” and the Latin daemonium, “demon.”

Force, the

“The Force,” Volkswagen, 2011

The Force is “a binding, metaphysical, and ubiquitous power in the fictional universe of the Star Wars galaxy created by George Lucas.” An ability of the Force is telekinesis, “movement of or motion in an object, animate or inanimate, produced without contact with the body producing the motion.” The word force comes from the Latin fortis, “strong.”

G

Man: “G to me means greatness.”

“Talking Heads,” Gatorade, 2009

Ozzy Osbourne: “Welcome to 4G!. . All aboard the 5G train!. . .How many bloody G’s are there?”

Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Beiber,” Best Buy, 2011

In the Gatorade commercial, G has a variety of meanings that have to do with endurance and perseverance, while in the Best Buy commercial, G has no meaning. 3G and 4G referred to third or fourth generation wireless technology, but are essentially meaningless marketing terms.

magic chip

“The Magic Chip,” Doritos, 2009

magic fridge

Dude: “Guys, hurry up! The magic fridge is back!”

The Magic Fridge,” Bud Light, 2006

These two commercials use the term magic to make ordinary things like corn chips and beer seem other-worldly and powerful, while simultaneously poking fun at this idea.

milk-a-holic

Baby Girl: “And that milk-a-holic Lindsay wasn’t over?”

Jealous Girlfriend,” E-Trade, 2010

A milk-a-holic (a blend of milk and alcoholic) is someone who is addicted to milk. As Erin McKean stated in a Boston Globe piece, the “-holic suffix is used for any addiction” (chocoholic, shopaholic, workaholic). Actress Lindsay Lohan sued E-Trade over this ad, claiming that the baby Lindsay referred to her and her reported problems with substance abuse.

office linebacker

“Terry Tate: Office Linebacker,” Reebok, 2003

Office linebacker plays on the idea of superfluous jobs created in the name of pseudo-efficiency and faux-continuous improvement.

super human

Announcer: “Your inner hero is calling. Answer at the one place we can all feel super human again.”

Calling All Heroes,” Universal Orlando Resort, 2009

To feel human means to feel like oneself and not part of a machine. The ad plays on this phrase by adding super, implying that the product will make one feel even more human, and therefore even better, as well as like a superhero.

tranny

Announcer: “Truckers know towing 10,000 pounds up a steep grade ain’t good for your tranny.”

Killer Heat,” Toyota, 2009

Tranny here is short for transmission. Tranny is also short for transvestite, “a person who dresses and acts in a style or manner traditionally associated with the opposite sex.”

vroom vroom

Conan O’Brien: “Vroom vroom party starter.”

Swedish,” Bud Light, 2009

Vroom is “the loud, roaring noise of an engine operating at high speed.” The word is imitative in origin and attests to 1967. The earliest citation we could find was February 1967, in a Boston Globe article: “When I tried a sudden ‘vroom’ up to 50, the extra speed came slowly.” The ad’s use of vroom vroom may be a play on Mazda’s zoom zoom ad campaign.

wardrobe malfunction

“I am sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl,” Timberlake said in a statement. “It was not intentional and is regrettable.”

NFL, FCC upset by halftime show; CBS apologizes,” USA Today, February 1, 2004

While wardrobe malfunction does not originate from an ad (though the phrase did inspire at least one commercial), we thought no post about Super Bowl words would be complete without it. The phrase was coined by Justin Timberlake’s management to describe the incident that occurred during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, in which Janet Jackson’s breast was accidentally bared. The phrase implies that no one was at fault except Jackson’s wardrobe; malfunction implies mechanical rather than human error.

The incident has also been referred to as boobgate and nipplegate. Gate refers to Watergate, “a series of scandals occurring during the Nixon administration in which members of the executive branch organized illegal political espionage against their perceived opponents and were charged with violation of the public trust, bribery, contempt of Congress, and attempted obstruction of justice.” Adding gate to a word signals a scandal or controversy.

wassup

Various dudes: “WASSUP!”

Wassup,” Budweiser, 2006

The wassup commercials first ran in 1999 and were “based on a short film, entitled ‘True’, written and directed by Charles Stone III, that featured Stone and several of his childhood friends” sitting around “talking on the phone and saying ‘Whassup!’ to one another in a comical way.” Other versions of the commercial include “What are you doing?” for yuppies and “How you doin’?” for “Jersey guys.”

The word wassup is a corruption of the phrase what’s up. Other variations include whazzup, what up, and sup. What’s up is commonly thought to have originated from the Bugs Bunny catchphrase, “What’s up, Doc?” first used in 1940. However, an earlier citation can be found O. Henry’s Sherlock Holmes parody, The Adventures of Shamrock Jolnes, in the name of a Dr. Watson send-up, Dr. Whatsup. “Sit down, Whatsup, and excuse me for a few moments.”

For all the Super Bowl ads that ever were, check out this site, and keep your eyes and ears peeled this Sunday for even more Word Soup-worthy Super Bowl ad words.

All-Star Words

In honor of tomorrow’s All-Star Game, we’re happy to announce a new word-of-the-day list from Paul Dickson, the author of The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, Third Edition (and more than fifty other books)!

Why are baseball words so hugely entertaining (even if you’re not a hard-core baseball fan)? Paul puts it best:

Baseball is a metaphoric circus.

The game has a particular infatuation with what one critic of sportswriters termed “the incorrect use of correct words.” There are hundreds of examples, but the point can be made by simply listing a selection of synonyms for the hard-hit ball or line drive. It is variously known as an aspirin, a BB, a bolt, a clothesline, a frozen rope, a pea, a rocket, and a seed. A player’s throwing arm seems to be called everything but an arm: gun, hose, rifle, soupbone, whip, and wing, to name just a few. The arm is not the only renamed body part. From top to bottom, players have lamps (eyes), a pipe (neck or throat), hooks (hands), wheels (legs), and tires (feet).
So many allusions are made to food and dining, including pitches that seem to fall off the table, that a fairly well-balanced diet suggests itself in terms like can of corn, cup of coffee, fish cakes, banana stalk, mustard, pretzel, rhubarb, green pea, juice, meat hand, grapefruit league, and tater. Among the many terms for the ball itself are apple, cantaloupe, egg, lemon, orange, pea, potato, and tomato. Implements? There is the plate (also known as the platter, pan, and dish) and, of course, the forkball. Dessert? The red abrasion from a slide into base is a strawberry and the fan’s time-honored sound of disapproval is a raspberry.
The game proudly displays its rustic roots and there is a tone to the language of the game that is remarkably pastoral. If any imagery dominates, it is that of rural America. Even under a dome, it is a game of fields and fences, where ducks [sit] on the pond and pitchers sit in the catbird seat. New players come out of the farm system and a farm hand who pitches may get to work in the bullpen.

You can sign up to receive Paul’s baseball words here; and if you have a Nook Color, we’ll be featuring baseball words this whole week via the Wordnik Nook Word of the Day app! [Want a hard copy of the Dictionary? You can find one at any of these fine booksellers.]

We hope you enjoy exploring this rich slice of English … and if you’ll be in Pasadena, CA this Sunday, the 17th of July, you can also see Paul Dickson at the Baseball Reliquary, where he will be presented with the 2011 Tony Salin Memorial Award for his commitment to the preservation of baseball history.