Oxford Dictionaries had a surprising new entry in its most-viewed definitions pages yesterday: the word ‘deuce’.
Clearly, fans watching Rafael Nadal’s marathon five-hour defeat to Gilles Muller decided to research the origin of this peculiar scoring term to calm their nerves.
The language of sport interests Oxford academics, too.
Professor Simon Horobin, of the Faculty of English Language and Literature at Oxford University, says that it comes to us from a huge variety of sources.
For instance, the rugby terms “ruck”, “maul” and “scrum” come to us, respectively, from a Scandinavian word for “haystack”, a Latin word for “hammer”, and as a modified version of the military term “skirmish”.
He says the word “tennis” itself is said to derive from medieval France, where the game first developed. Players shouted “tenez!” (“take that!”) as they hit the ball.