1920s slang

I’m just going to get on the ameche and tell my blue serge I love her. She’s in the hen coop at the moment so I may as well kick the gong around. Nerts! This is wonderful.

41. Jack: another name for money. (Other words for money: “rubes,” “kale,” “mazuma.”)

42. Johnson Brother: a criminal.

43. Kick the Gong Around: to smoke opium.

44. Knee-Duster: a skirt.

45. Lalapazaza: a good sport.

46. Lens Louise: the person who steamrolls the conversation.

47. Meat Wagon: an ambulance.

48. Middle Aisle: to get married. Example: “I’m going down the middle aisle.”

49. Mustard Plaster: someone who isn’t wanted but won’t leave.

50. “Nerts!”: “That’s awesome!”

Dash off and away

It has been a disastrous day for the hyphen. Nearly 16,000 of them have been cast into oblivion by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, according to the BBC.

The sixth edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary has knocked the hyphens out of 16,000 words, many of them two-word compound nouns. Fig-leaf is now fig leaf, pot-belly is now pot belly, pigeon-hole has finally achieved one word status as pigeonhole and leap-frog is feeling whole again as leapfrog.

“Cricket” in our language

According to this website, the word cricket is the 1,217th most frequently used word in the English language (spoken). More than junk, link, bunny, joey but less than Japanese, butthole, finger and lost.

Go on, waste 10 minutes

When Harmison hit Ponting

When Steve Harmison smashed[1] a delivery into Ricky Ponting’s face, it was, for me, the start of the summer – and an indication that England weren’t going to be bullied. The following is an extract from the book Ashes Victory, which gives some insight into what happened (you’ll remember that no England fielder went up to Ponting to ask of his health..etc)

challenge, [Ponting] attempted to hook Harmison, missed and felt blood dripping down his cheek after the metal grille of his helmet cut into his cheek. Play was delayed for five minutes while Ponting received treatment. England’s captain and fielders looked on from a distance, another signal that they were going to play this Ashes series tough. Ponting later criticised England’s lack of one of the game’s common courtesies and claimed it motivated him.

Simon Jones remembers: ‘No one wants to see a player hurt but they weren’t going to get any sympathy from us. We were there to do a job. It was about controlled aggression, not going over the top.’

Andrew Strauss admits to feeling conflicting emotions. Langer, after all, was a friend and colleague from their time together at Middlesex. ‘We wanted to let Australia know that they wouldn’t be able to bully us. We wanted to hit the ground running and really show them that we meant business and that our quick bowlers were going to cause them problems. Looking back on it now, though, I think we probably got a bit carried away with that. You know, if a guy gets hit, regardless of the situation, you should probably go up and see if they’re all right. But I think that first session, walking out there that morning and the sort of roar that went up in the Long Room as we walked through and realising the enormity of what lay ahead put us on edge a little bit more than we’d normally be.

‘It’s a tricky one. Langer’s a good mate of mine and I get on very well with him on and off the pitch, but that first morning, the first hour, it was all about setting the tone for the rest of the series. We were very keen to get under their skin and maybe that thing about being mates went out of the window for a session or so. I remember when Ponting got hit and we were just leaving him to it, Langer said to me: “This really is a war out here, isn’t it? You’re not even going up and seeing if he’s all right.” And no one said a word.’

Whatever the protocol, Ponting was dismissed soon after, with Kevin Pietersen’s drop in the gully counting for nothing as the………

[1] The first feedback I received – first and only, in fact! – at Cricinfo was from a Vietnamese expat, who took great offence at my use of the word “smashing.” He said it was an utterly inappropriate word for the gentleman’s game – or sentiments to the effect of. I’m still using it – how else can you describe a ball which causes blood to spill from a batsman’s face?

Cricket etymology: cricce, creckett, cricke, crique!

I hold quite an interest in the English language, and in language itself – so I was pleased to find the Online Etymology Dictionary where I could look up “cricket.” Fascinating reading:

“game,” 1598, apparently from O.Fr. criquet “goal post, stick,” perhaps from M.Du./M.Flem. cricke “stick, staff.” Sense of “fair play” is first recorded 1851, on notion of “cricket as it should be played.”

I suppose the “It’s not cricket” phrase came in after 1851 – but, more interesting is just how old our game is. 1598. Around the time when William Shakespeare was writing the 16th century equivalent of Harry Potter (Othello!?).

This has made me, very briefly, look up cricket history – and I’ve unearthed two gems, one at Wikipedia and the other here. Brief summaries…

The origins of cricket are obscure, and there are several theories on how it started. One is that shepherds used to play it – one would stand in front of the wicket gate to the sheep fold, and another would bowl a stone or something at him, and he would have to hit it with his crook, which was known as a cricce.

So already there are some curious reasons behind “cricket,” but the general consensus is that a crook, cricce, creck, crique etc is a stick. In Old English, cricc is a staff (guessing that’s a shepherd’s “leaning” stick) – in Flemish, krick(e) means a stick.


In 1598 there was a dispute over a school’s ownership of a plot of land in which a 59-year old coroner, John Derrick, testified that he and his school friend had played “creckett” at the site fifty years earlier.

One of the most interesting bits is the start of Test Cricket. Can you beleive this?

The first ever cricket game played between teams representing their nations was between the USA and Canada in 1844. The match was played at Elysian Field in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Maybe if the Americans and Canadians knew this, it could spark some interest again. In fact, Jagadish wrote about USA cricket today – as did I, here.

Back to the etymology, and Hat Tricks. As you’ll know, although hat-tricks occur in most sports these days, it is in cricket where they first started…and here’s how:

c.1877, originally from cricket, “taking three wickets on three bowls;” extended to other sports (esp. ice hockey) c.1909. Allegedly because it entitled the bowler to receive a hat from his club commemorating the feat (or entitled him to pass the hat for a cash collection), but also infl. by the image of a conjurer pulling things from his hat (though hat trick in this sense is not attested until 1886).

Brilliant! I could go on and on, but I’ll leave the rest for you to read. Here and here and here. If you know any other historical gems, please leave a comment.