Myth Trivia: Our favorite sports terms from golf and tennis

Where do those unique sports terms come from?


CHARLOTTE, N.C., Aug. 12, 2015 – Today we venture into the world of sports to provide some origins of everyday terms that have become so commonplace we never ask where they came from.

1 – Origin of the term “All Square”: We begin with the simplest explanation of today’s trivia and build from there. The idiom “all square” is an English term used for many purposes. The most basic meaning indicates that all parties are equal with no person or group having an edge.

The phrase is used in business dealings and friendly negotiations, but in modern times it has found a home in the game of golf.

Before stroke play was introduced to the golfing world, primarily to accommodate the needs for the limitations of early television coverage, the most popular form of the game was match play. Two golfers would compete head-to-head with the winner of each hole being the player with the fewest strokes.

If both competitors shot the same score, they halved the hole and they were “all square” or even. Since a square has four equal sides, no corner of the box has an advantage over the other.

As the round of golf continued, and the number of holes diminished, the winner of the round was declared when he had captured more individual holes than the number that was left to play. For example, a golfer who took three more holes than his opponent could not lose the match when there were only two remaining, so he won the contest by a score of 3-2.

So long as enough holes remained for the person who was behind to catch up,the contest continued. If the golfer did, indeed, come from behind to tie the score, then it was “all square” and the game progressed.

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2  – Why zero is called “love” in tennis: It happens every week, the question we ask has more than one theory of evolution,and today our “love” story has three possibilities.

The first has to do with playing the game for “love.” In this case, “love” is not used in the realm of scoring but with the idea that early tennis players “loved” the game so much that they didn’t care if they didn’t score any points. Therefore, if they got zero points, it did not matter because they were still in “love” with tennis.

A similar version is an claiming that “love” comes from the Dutch word lof.

A Dutch idiom goes: “iets voor, lof doen” which translates to mean “to do something for praise.” According to this concept, “even if a player fails to score, he should still be praised for his participation.”

And now the answer that should be correct, even if it isn’t.

In its infancy several centuries ago, tennis was all the rage in France. The French word for “egg” is “l’oeuf,”  which over time became Anglicized into the word we know as “love.” Since an egg resembles a “O,” it was popular to term a score of nothing as “l’oeuf.”

Consider that a shutout in baseball is called “putting up goose eggs”;  the reference to “eggs” as a “zero” is easy to understand in modern terminology.

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3 – Where do eagles, birdies and bogeys come from?: Back to golf. We begin with “birdies,” which almost everyone knows means one stroke under par on a given hole.

The Country Club in Atlantic City claims to be the first to use the word “birdie,” according to the United States Golf Association website. While playing a round just before the turn of the 20th century, a golfer named Ab Smith hit his second shot on a par four within inches of the cup.

“That was a bird of a shot,” said Smith who then holed his putt for a “birdie.”

An “eagle” is nothing more than the logical extension of the term “birdie.” Once again Ab Smith gets credit because his group referred to any hole played in two under par as an “eagle.”

Perhaps more interesting is the term “albatross,” which is extremely rare and, in the U.S. anyway, is termed a “double eagle.” “Albatross” was also an Ab Smith creation, but “double eagle” remains the common term in the U.S.

The first recorded “albatross” came at the 18th hole on a 271 yard par-4 in Durban, South Africa, when E.E. Wooler scored a hole-in-one in 1931.

As for the term “bogey,” it was the first stroke system of golf developed at the end of the 19th century by Hugh Rotherham, secretary of the Coventry Golf Club.

However, a Scottish goblin called a “bogle” dates as far back as the 16th century. A bogey-man was considered a devil, and golfers liked to say they were playing against a Mr. Bogey when they evaluated their scores against the toughness of the course.

Join us next week to see where our tantalizing trail of trivia takes us.

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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of the Magellan Travel Club

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod

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