The Wimbledon tennis tournament is nearing its climax and this year’s tournament has given us a couple of interesting neologisms – ‘Murrena’ and ‘Serandy’ anyone?
As we wait for these to be added to the official vocabulary, let’s have a look at how this game with French origins captured the essence of so many different countries with its unique language.
Love: Even though this is a word we all hope to hear frequently, it doesn’t have quite such positive connotations for tennis players out on the court. In tennis’ scoring system, ‘love’ means zero points in a game. One popular theory is that it came from the French word l’oeuf, which literally means ‘egg’. Seems plausible – egg, zero, similar shape.
Deuce: ‘Deuce’ is derived from the old French word deus, meaning two, or from à deux de jeu, meaning two points are still required for either player to win the game.
Racquet: Let’s cross continents for the origin of the word ‘Racquet’. This comes from a centuries-old Arabic word that translates as ‘palm of the hand’. This is because early tennis players actually used to use their palm to hit the ball. Thankfully, they wore gloves!
Let: The English influence on tennis is not just limited to Wimbledon. The word ‘let’, used when the ball hits the net and the point is played again, comes from the old English word ‘lettan’, meaning to block or obstruct.
Grand Slam: The phrase Grand Slam can be traced back to the 1930s when a famous Australian player had taken home all the three major titles and was in the running for the US Open. John Kieran, an American sports journalist, wrote that Jack Crawford had “nearly won something that didn’t exist,”, a ‘Grand Slam’. He took the term from the card game bridge. Ever since then, winning the Grand Slam has been the pinnacle of achievement all tennis players aspire to.
Ace: Americans can also take credit for the term ‘ace’, which was coined in the early 20th Century. It was sports writer Allison Danzig who first used the term to refer to a serve that is not returned by the opposing player.
Whatever the origin of the various terms used in tennis, they have certainly added flavour to the game. There are also many other terms in tennis which, despite being English, wouldn’t really strike you as being sporting lingo, fancy a ‘bagel’ anyone?
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Written by Marya Jabeen