Tag Archives: sports & games
Derby

Derby

  recruitment poster for the Derby scheme       The Derby is an annual flat race for three-year-old horses, founded in 1780 by the twelfth Earl of Derby (1752-1834), and run on Epsom Downs, in Surrey, England. The result of the first Derby, which took place on Thursday 4th May, was published in the London […]

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soccer

soccer

  Queen’s College Cambridge football team (1900-01)     Soccer football, as it is called in America, is the English Association Football, differing considerably from the other forms of English football (Rugby and Gaelic) and very markedly from the American Intercollegiate game. Handbook of Athletic Games for Players, Instructors, and Spectators, comprising fifteen major ball […]

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wooden spoon

wooden spoon

  The last Wooden Spoon, presented in 1909 to Cuthbert Lempriere Holthouse source: University of Cambridge       MEANING   An imaginary prize said to be awarded to the person who is last in a race or other competition.     ORIGIN   At Cambridge University, an over-sized wooden spoon was traditionally presented to […]

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to get a rise out of someone

to get a rise out of someone

  The Secrets of Angling by John Dennys title page of the first edition (1613)     To get, or take, a rise out of someone means to provoke an angry or irritated response from someone, especially by teasing.   Here, a rise is a joke, a trick played on someone. It is a figurative […]

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alphin

alphin

  photograph: the chess piece       In the early game of chess, an alphin was each of four pieces able to move two squares diagonally, jumping over the middle square. It was superseded by the bishop at the end of the 15th century. The word is from post-classical Latin alphinus, Anglo-Norman aufyn, Anglo-Norman […]

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hands down

hands down

      MEANING   The adverb hands down means easily and decisively, especially in to win hands down.   ORIGIN   In horse racing, a jockey who is winning comfortably rides with hands held loosely down, there being no need to use them to bring pressure on the horse. The phrase first appeared in […]

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to lose one’s marbles

to lose one’s marbles

      A marble is a little ball made originally of marble and now usually of glass, porcelain, baked clay, etc., used in a children’s game. In the classic game of marbles, the players take turns at shooting their own marble, with finger and thumb, at marbles inside a ring, trying to knock the […]

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nightcap

nightcap

    A nightcap is a cap worn in bed to keep one’s head warm. The word is first recorded in the description and valuation, made in 1378, of the articles that were in the shop of Thomas Trewe, haberdasher of London: one dozen of white caps, called “nightcappes”, was worth 2s. 3d.. The figurative […]

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straight from the horse’s mouth

straight from the horse’s mouth

    MEANING   The phrase (straight) from the horse’s mouth refers to information and means from the person directly concerned or another authoritative source.     ORIGIN   This phrase is from horse racing, and alludes to the presumed ideal source for a racing tip. The earliest instance that I have found is from […]

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dark horse

dark horse

  The Derby was decided by a photo-finish for the first time in 1949, with Nimbus (centre) the winner by a head.     The British politician and writer Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81) is often credited with being the first user of dark horse in the sense of a horse about whose racing powers little is […]

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