February 26, 2006

Olympic verbiage II

The last week or so have been a little light on blogging. It was reading week here at Mount A and I’ve been spending a lot of time watching the Olympics, along with catching up on some reading and marking. And since I wrote a blog entry during the opening ceremonies, it seems appropriate that I write another during the closing ceremonies.

During the last summer games I wrote about some interesting sporting terms that were used repeatedly in the Olympic coverage, so here are few interesting ones from the winter sports.

First of all a couple of figure skating terms: lutz and salchow. Unsurprisingly these two jumps are named after people, figure skaters Alois Lutz and Ulrich Salchow. The Austrian figure skater Lutz apparently first performed the eponymously named jump 1913. The Swede Salchow performed the jump named after him in 1909. No Swedes or Austrians won medals in figure skating this Olympics.

In curling, the leader of a team is called the skip, which presumably is short for skipper, as in the captain of a ship, and thus cognate with ship from Old English scip. However, I can’t explain where the curling terms hammer and hog line come from.

In skiing, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term mogul comes “probably from Scand. (cf. dial. Norw. mugje, fem. muga, ‘a heap, a mound’), or from southern Ger. dial. mugel in the same sense.” The same web site states that slalom comes “from Norw. slalam ‘skiing race,’ lit. ‘sloping track,’ from sla ‘slope’ + lam ‘track’ (related to Norw. laan ‘a row of houses’).” Not surprising that the Scandinavian countries provide much of the skiing terminology, and though they no longer dominate the sport as they used to, they still do well in them: Norway took all but one of their 19 medals in skiing related events and Sweden took 11 of their 14 in skiing related events.

I won’t even touch snowboard vocabulary, though there’s a lot of it and it’s quite amusing.

And finally sled-related vocabulary. First of all, the word sled comes from Middle Dutch sledde, from the Proto-Germanic root *slido, and is thus cognate with Old English slidan, which gives us Modern English slide. The related term sleigh comes from the Dutch slee, a variant of slede, and seems to be more common in North American English, though the official Olympic term is bobsleigh, not bobsled. And as for the first element, bob, Middle English bobbe, ‘cluster (of fruit, leaves, etc.)’, may be of Celtic origin (cp. Gael. babag). I suppose a bobsled is a diminutive sled? Interestingly, the word luge, from French and before that from Medieval Latin sludia, may also be Celtic in origin, from a Gaulish word cognate to English sled and slide. On the other hand, skeleton, a sport similar to luge, is so called because of the stripped-down nature of the sled, though apparently there is one competing theory that the word is a mispronunciation of the Norwegian word kjelke which means ‘sled’. The word skeleton, of course, comes from Greek meaning ‘dried up’. The turns in the track used for boblseigh, luge, and skeleton are called chicanes. The Online Etymology Dictionary gives the following information: “from Fr., originally ‘subtlety,’ perhaps related to Ger. schick ‘tact, skill,’ from M.L.G. schikken ‘arrange appropriately;’ or from Fr. chicane, from chicanerie (see chicanery).” I’m not sure I see any patterns in all of this in terms of Olympic results…

Posted by Mark at February 26, 2006 03:01 PM | TrackBack
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