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Jewish World Review Oct. 4, 2004 / 19 Tishrei, 57645

Editors of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate
Dictionary, Tenth Edition

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Consumer Reports

'Hat trick', 'rubber game' or 'rubber match'; source of 'spin doctor'; 'trope' | Dear Editor:

Where and when did the terms "hat trick'' and "rubber game'' or "rubber match'' originate, and for which game or sport were they originally meant?

— W.A., Nutley, N.J.

Dear W.A.:

It is likely that "hat trick'' was originally applied to the feat in cricket of dismissal by the bowler of three batsmen with three consecutive balls. Apparently, cricket bowlers who accomplished this feat were awarded a bonus of a new hat. The earliest printed evidence of this "hat trick'' is from 1882. The term is now applied to hockey and soccer as well, and means the scoring of three goals - not necessarily consecutively - by one player in one game. Another sport in which this term has been adopted is horse racing, where it is used when a jockey rides a winner in three consecutive races or wins an annual race for three consecutive years. More broadly, the term can be applied to any triple accomplishment, even one that occurs outside the domain of sports.

A "rubber'' is a series of usually three games, where the third decides the winner if both players or teams have one win each after playing twice. "Rubber'' is also used to refer to the third and deciding contest - the "rubber game'' or "rubber match'' - in such a series. The earliest known printed use of "rubber'' in these senses is from 1599.

Exactly how these uses of "rubber'' originated isn't known. Early evidence relates the term to the game of bowls. At least one theorist has suggested that it is somehow derived from the use of "rubber'' in bowls to refer to two woods "rubbing'' together in a collision. We know of no evidence supporting this theory, however, and the connection strikes us as highly dubious.

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Dear Editor:

In connection with the presidential campaign, I've been hearing about the so-called "spin doctors.'' Can you tell me when the term "spin doctor'' was coined, and how it came to have its meaning?

— E.A., Waltham, Mass.

Dear E.A.:

A spin doctor is a person, such as a presidential aide, who is responsible for ensuring that others interpret an event from a particular point of view. The effort of a spin doctor is called "spin control,'' which has been aptly described as a form of "news management.''

"Spin doctor'' became popular in the early 1980s. The term is a combination of a sense of "spin'' meaning "a special point of view, emphasis, or interpretation controlling a presentation'' and a sense of "doctor'' meaning "a person who repairs or restores things'' or perhaps simply "a practitioner.'' This sense of "spin'' may have derived from the figurative use of "spin'' in the expression "to spin a yarn,'' but a more likely explanation connects it to the spin placed on a ball to control its movement or delivery, as in tennis or billiards.

"Spin doctor'' has moved out of the strictly political arena and into the terminology of public relations in general. A news magazine, for example, has run an article about "savvy movie publicists, the spin doctors of the entertainment industry.''

Dear Editor:

A recent crossword puzzle contained the word "trope'' meaning "figure of speech.'' What exactly is a trope? Can you give some examples?

— G.G., Erie, Pa.

Dear G.G.:

Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines "trope'' as "the use of a word or expression in a different sense from that which properly belongs to it for giving life or emphasis to an idea.'' The term is also used to refer to an individual word or expression that is used in such a way. So "trope'' does not denote a particular kind of figure of speech but is instead a broad, inclusive term. Metaphor, simile, hyperbole (exaggeration), and synecdoche (in which a part is used to represent a whole, as in "wheels'' for "car'') are all varieties of trope. In fact, almost any word or phrase that is not to be taken literally (such as "He's a sly fox'') can be designated a trope.

"Trope'' comes from the Greek noun "tropos,'' meaning "turn'' or "style,'' from the verb "trepein,'' meaning "to turn.'' The word most often appears in the context of literary analysis and criticism, as in the following passage found in our citations: "Through allusions, euphemisms, and the use of all kinds of tropes the reader is intended to arrive at the conclusion that his author is familiar with the best authors on whom he can draw freely, if the occasion demands it.''

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09/22/04:' Redux'; 'elan'; 'swan-neck'
09/08/04: 'Adam's apple'; 'You sure lucked out'; 'the lion's share'
09/02/04: 'King's shilling'; 'Stockholm syndrome'; 'amid the alien corn'
08/24/04: Guacamole = avocados?; 'bona fides' needs plural verb?; 'exact same' redundant?
08/17/04: 'Nosey parker'; where the question mark came from?; why 'wash' doesn't rhyme with 'cash'
08/12/04: 'Vexillologist'; 'fifth column'; 'Homer sometimes nods'
08/05/04: 'Spitting image'; 'eclectic'; 'spendthrift'
07/28/04: 'Trousers'; 'argosy'
07/19/04: 'Sourdough wit'; 'headshrinkers'; 'seventh heaven'
07/08/04: 'The proof is in the pudding'; 'Pyrrhic victory'
07/01/04: Origin of 'vitamin'; 'binnacle list'
06/25/04: 'Abnegate' and 'abdicate'; 'feet of clay'; 'difugalty'
06/17/04: 'Whinge'; 'whole cloth'
06/10/04: 'The devil to pay'; 'crack', as in 'a crack marksman'; 'the dog that didn't bark'
06/03/04: 'Surrounded on three sides'; sleuths
05/18/04: 'Of the first water'; horses and horseradish; more
05/06/04: 'Historic' v. 'historical'; 'prestigious' = 'trickery'?; 'can of corn' as sports phrase
04/27/04: Derivation of 'bozo'; 'elt'; 'spill the beans'
04/21/04: Meaning of "budget'' in the word "fussbudget''; "bleeding hearts''; "skycap''
04/01/04: "Thin red line''; "doak"; "level playing field"
03/22/04: "King Canute"; "vodka"; "Cheese it. The cops!''
03/16/04: "Carrot and stick''; "hue and cry''; Where did the term "flea market'' originate?
03/09/04: Going "haywire"; "close, but no cigar"; "mahatma"
03/01/04: "Roundheel'' and "well-heeled''; "milquetoast"; "sick as a dog''
02/26/04: "Charley horse"; "`Foolproof''; "cracker-barrel''
02/17/04: "Dunce''; titles "Mr.'' and "Mrs.''; "under the weather''
02/10/04: "Turnpike''; "dead reckoning''
02/02/04: "Mutt"; "lobby" in its political sense; "procrustean bed"
01/27/04: "Decimate"; "duende"; a dessert "junket"?
01/14/04: Is "MacGuffin" related to all the "Mac" and "Mc" words we've been hearing about recently?; "afghans" and "Afghans"; "since Hector was a pup"
01/09/04: Confused about the word "hearsay"; "Burgle"; "waiting in line" or "waiting on line"?
12/31/03: The past tense of "plead''; Is "old adage'' redundant?; Where did "lounge lizard'' come from?
12/15/03: "Ostracize" and "oyster''?; Where does the "mentor'' come from?; "jeopard''
12/02/03: "Karats'' and "carats'' — meaning of and difference between; why apostrophe in "'cello''?; "hell-bent for leather''
11/18/03: "Hoosegow,''; why the little finger is called the "`pinkie''; difference between "lady'' and "dame''
11/13/03: 'Take it on the lam'; 'decorum'; 'you look like the wreck of the Hesperus'
11/03/03: Origin of "hypnosis"/"hypnotism"; "all right" or "alright"; emote
10/28/03: "Blue plate special"; how to use "hoi polloi''; "Peck's Bad Boy''
10/20/03: Who was the person the artist who first used "silhouette" as an art form?; why are they called migraine headaches?; origin of "keep one's shirt on"
10/13/03: "Grey'' in "greyhound'' has nothing to do with the color?; "at loggerheads''
09/29/03: Where does the word "karaoke" comes from?; people or persons?; "synecdoche"
09/23/03: Using "eke'' correctly; fedora; why do we call an especially flattering biography a "hagiography''?
09/10/03: Why do we call a zero score in tennis "love''?; "biannual'' or "semiannual''?; Is there any difference between "further'' and "farther''?; dilemma of using "dilemma''
09/02/03: "Out loud'' rather than "aloud''; "pushing the envelope''; "without rhyme or reason''
08/25/03: "Cheesy''; "hold a candle''
08/11/03: "Halcyon days''; Why isn't "sacrilegious'' spelled "sacreligious''?; "red light'' and "green light'' as expression — which came first, the inaction or the signals?
08/04/03: "Votive'' candles; "cosmeticizing"; "potluck''
07/28/03: Why ‘debt’ has a ‘b’ in it; "south moon under''; why "Rx'' is used for prescriptions
07/21/03: "Romance" & "Rome"?; punching & clocks; "conversate"
07/14/03: "Lukewarm''; Where did we get the word "wig'' for a fake head of hair?
07/09/03: Why doesn't "Arkansas'' rhyme with "Kansas''? ; "Catawampus"; "Jimmie Higgins work"
06/30/03: "Foozle"; author who wrote an entire novel without using a certain letter of the alphabet?; "kith and kin"
06/23/03: "On the fritz"; "knuckle down''
06/17/03: How did "lazy Susan'' come to be used for the rotating tray?; woolgathering'' as synonym for "idle daydreaming''; "in harm's way''
06/09/03: "Clotheshorse"; a god named "Ammonia"?
05/29/03: With kid gloves; "receipt'' = "recipe''?; from soup to nuts

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