From nutmeg to love, there are some pretty odd sports expressions that, well, sound like they have nothing to do with sports. So how'd they get into our game vocabulary? We've got the low-down on each unique story, plus how the term is used in play.
Today, we use the term hat trick to describe three goals by a single player, usually in a hockey game, but that's not the sport where it originated. The words were actually first used in cricket in the 1800s to describe a famous English player's action of taking three batsman out of the game on three consecutive balls, allegedly because a hat was passed around as a form of collection for the player afterwards. It wasn't until much later that the expression made its way to North America as the hockey play we know today. The term is also used in soccer.
That leads us nicely into this term: brace. This phrase can also be used in hockey but is more commonly heard in soccer to describe two goals by a player in one game. It's a step down from the hat trick, but how did it get its name? It apparently comes from the old French word brace, meaning "two arms."
No, we aren't talking about the spice. In soccer or European football, a player is nutmegged when an opponent kicks the ball between his or her legs. According to Peter Seddon's Football Talk: The Language & Folklore of the World's Greatest Game, the verb is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary as "arising in the 1870s which in Victorian slang came to mean 'to be tricked or deceived, especially in a manner which makes the victim look foolish.'"
If you've never heard the term posterize, there's a good chance no one's ever made you look silly on a basketball court. Essentially, the expression describes when an offensive player dunks a basket over a defending player in such spectacular fashion that it's likely to end up on a poster, but the term has also been used to refer to a player made to look silly by another's moves. The term has been around at least since the early 1990s when the Washington Post used the term in a piece on an impressive shot by Michael Jordan.
This weird sports word has nothing to do with flatulence. Fartlek is actually a term of Swedish origin that translates to "speed play," and refers to a training method of running that combines continuous and interval training. Basically, a runner can vary speed and intensity however he or she wants, the Independent notes, so you could see anything from aerobic walking to straight-out sprinting in at fartlek workout, though each workout typically lasts about 45 minutes.
We love us some tennis but we've got to admit, the scoring system can be a bit confusing. As tennis fans will know, the term love is used to describe a score of zero but no one knows for sure why. If you're scratching your head, this will at least offer one explanation for how it got into the sport: Some credit a mispronunciation of the French word "l'oeuf," meaning egg or goose egg, which is slang for zero.
The full nelson and its brother the half nelson are some of the most well-known wrestling moves out there. But the from-behind tactic of encircling one or both of an opponent's arms underneath the armpit and securing at the neck -- forcing his or her hands over the head -- isn't named after some wrestler who invented it. The most likely story? The term probably derived from 19th century British admiral Horatio Nelson, who liked to surround his opponents.
And now you know just a little bit more about the sometimes weird, but always entertaining, world of sports.
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