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Sue de Groot

Sachin, Warne and other such verbs

Lots of words and phrases from cricket have crept into everyday conversation. Some soon will

Sue de Groot

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Shahid Afridi sends back Herschelle Gibbs, Pakistan v South Africa, ICC World Twenty20, 1st semi-final, Trent Bridge, June 18, 2009
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So I was stumped. Caught out with no good ideas. Or maybe that should be caught short, as happens when midgets play cricket. Apparently they have very short tempers, the vertically challenged, so you shouldn't make them angry. Fortunately they get over it quickly, thanks to those short memories.

Incidentally, although I am usually highly suspicious of so-called statistically proven facts, a recent survey concluded that six out of seven dwarves are not Happy, which sounds feasible. But back to my dilemma. I was on a sticky wicket, bowled over by indecision. The light was bad and I thought perhaps I should retire. At least I'd had a good innings and wouldn't be out for a duck. And then an idea hit me for six: isn't it marvellous how many of the things we say all the time are gleaned from cricket terminology?

If it wasn't for games and professions, the English language would be a lot simpler to learn. Even sports we don't play creep into everyday conversation. Businessmen who have never so much as seen a baseball diamond (a rough diamond is one where they haven't cut the grass) use the dreadful phrase "ballpark figure" in their presentations. They also like to "touch base" with their clients and employees, and every adolescent knows what getting to first base means. Those who wouldn't know the game of bridge from a cantilevered brassiere will say they've never missed a trick, and as for cricket, even Americans understand what a run-up is. They also know what is meant by a hat-trick.

 
 
To "flower" is what a national squad sometimes does under a new coach. "Gibbs" is a request for a powerful, unpredictable stroke, as in: "Gibbs it to me, baby"
 

Every fan of the great game knows that the phrase "hat-trick" originated on the cricket pitch and happens when a bowler takes three wickets from three successive balls. It wasn't always called a hat-trick. Before it was decided to present headgear as a reward, one assumes they just gave the chap a round of polite applause and carried on. There is some dispute about which cricketer was the first to be awarded a new hat for this feat. Simon Wilde's book And God Created Cricket says a David Harris did it in the 1780s and was rewarded "with a gold-laced hat for his achievement". Wilde is probably more trustworthy than Wicket-pedia, which states that the first hatted bowler was England allrounder Heathfield Harman Stephenson, who took the holy troika at a match in Sheffield in 1858. Was it a bowler hat? We don't know. Whether it was first given to Harris or Stephenson, and whether or not it was gold-laced, why was it a hat? Perhaps Harris (or Stephenson) lost his in the run-up. If he'd needed new trousers, today we might be calling it a pants trick. But a hat Harris (or Stephenson) needed, and a hat Harris (or Stephenson) got.

Just out of interest, Stephenson was made captain of England for the inaugural tour of Australia in 1861. One of his fellow team members was called Julius Caesar. If he'd achieved a trio of wickets, would his new hat have had laurel leaves on it?

Another phrase that comes from cricket is "off his own bat", meaning to do something all on your own without relying on outside circumstances, such as wide balls and extras and relatives. Unfortunately those ignorant of cricket often misuse this handy expression and say, "off his own back" which is not only wrong but sounds a bit painful.

It's been a while since a new cricketing term entered the dictionary. There are some common phrases that might be improved with a bit of cricket thrown in. For example, "Twenty20 vision" should mean the ability to see something perfectly clearly, but only for a limited amount of time. And then there's "Test". If you ask me, every permutation of this concept should last for five days. That'd keep children off the streets.

Actually there are some modern concepts that might very well be cricket-related. To "flower" is what a national squad sometimes does under a new coach. "Gibbs" is a request for a powerful, unpredictable stroke, as in: "Gibbs it to me, baby", and to "sachin" is often used to describe someone who has earned the right to walk with a majestic swagger: "He sachined into the party like he was walking onto a yacht". And "warne", of course, is what mothers do to their daughters whenever a bunch of Australians are in town.

RSS FeedSue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter

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Sue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter. Formerly managing editor of men's magazine Directions, features writer for Femina and assistant editor of Cosmopolitan, she is now features editor of Food & Home Entertaining. She wrote the "Wicket Maiden" column for the Wisden Cricketer SA until that magazine's sad demise, and tries to restrict herself to writing about life's six highest pleasures: food, gardening, books, films, cats and cricket.

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Sue de Groot Sue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter. Formerly managing editor of men's magazine Directions, features writer for Femina and assistant editor of Cosmopolitan, she is now features editor of Food & Home Entertaining. She wrote the "Wicket Maiden" column for the Wisden Cricketer SA until that magazine's sad demise, and tries to restrict herself to writing about life's six highest pleasures: food, gardening, books, films, cats and cricket.
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