LINGUISTIC MINEFIELD

10 Surprising Military Terms That Made It Into Sports


Published on July 9, 2024


Credit: Riley McCullough

Military terminology often infiltrates our everyday language, and sports are no exception. From strategies to equipment, the lexicon of warfare has found its way onto the field, court, and pitch. We can blame the Ancient Greeks for this connection, where many feats of athleticism - like javelin throwing or chariot racing - were clearly inspired by war and military tactics.

Although we can be certain that there is no comparing the realities of war to sports , no matter how rough the plays, the association is deeply embedded in our language. Here are ten curious instances where military terms have made it into sports!

1

Counterattack

Credit: Chino Rocha

In many sports, a "counterattack" is a swift offensive maneuver launched in response to an opponent's attack , exploiting vulnerabilities in their defense. This term mirrors military counter-offensives, aiming to turn the tide of battle in one's favor by thwarting an enemy offensive and recovering lost ground in the process.

A saying attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte illustrates the vital importance of this strategy both in war and sports: "The greatest danger occurs at the moment of victory."

2

Fore

Credit: Courtney Cook

In golf, "fore" is a warning shouted by players to alert others of an errant shot heading their way. The most accepted etymology for this term claims that it comes from "beware before," a term artillerymen used to shout to warn fellow soldiers standing nearby that they were about to shoot their cannons.

Its modern usage in golf serves basically the same purpose, as it allows nearby players to react quickly and seek cover to avoid being struck by a stray ball.

3

Bomb

Credit: Vince Fleming

In volleyball, a "Filipino bomb" or just a "bomb" is a powerful, high-speed serve aimed at overwhelming the opposing team's defense , also called a spike. As its name suggests, the term originated among volleyball players in the Philippines, in the 1910s.

Like its military counterpart, this aggressive tactic seeks to create chaos and disrupt the opponent's strategy.

4

Blitz

Credit: Geoff Scott

In football, a "blitz" refers to a defensive strategy where additional players rush the quarterback to disrupt the offense.

Meaning "lightning" in German, the term is a reference to the blitzkrieg tactics developed by the German forces during World War II , where a quick combined arms attack would be used to disrupt enemy lines and rapidly advance positions on the battlefield.

5

Air Raid

Credit: Keith Johnston

In football, an "air raid" refers to a series of aerial attacks, typically involving long, high passes aimed at breaching the opposing team's defense. This term quite plainly draws parallels to military airstrikes aimed at penetrating enemy lines.

Coaches such as Mike Leach and Hal Mumme have popularized this offensive scheme since the late 80s, but the term has been applied to similar tactics since at least the 1940s.

6

Minefield

Credit: Pedro Henrique Santos

In motorsports, a "minefield" often describes a very difficult track or even a section of a track that is littered with debris, oil slicks, or other hazards, making navigation treacherous for drivers. This term mirrors the dangers of navigating an actual minefield, where caution and precision can make the difference between life and death.

7

Full Court Press

Credit: Markus Spiske

In basketball, employing a "full court press" means aggressively defending the opposing team from one end of the court to the other, effectively "surrounding" the opposing team and blocking action.

Reminiscent of military encirclement strategies, this tactic aims to apply relentless pressure on the offense. Perhaps not coincidentally, the strategy was first applied by college coaches whose previous experience was with military sports leagues.

8

Dud

Credit: Jose Francisco Morales

During World War I, baseball lingo and military lingo happened to live in extremely close quarters , as baseball was one of the most popular sports among North American troops stationed in the European trenches at the time.

This led to many baseball terms being applied to the battlefield, and also a few military terms being introduced into baseball. For example, the term "dud" was often used to describe a bad pitch, a term originally used for ammunition that failed to detonate upon impact.

9

Sniper

Credit: gerhard crous

In hockey, a "sniper" refers to a player known for their exceptional accuracy and ability to score goals with precise shots. Much like a military sniper who carefully selects and executes their targets from a distance, a hockey sniper strategically positions themselves to take advantage of scoring opportunities, often trying to catch the goaltender off guard.

10

Neutral Zone

Credit: Martin Reisch

In American football, the "neutral zone" is the area between the offensive and defensive lines before the play begins.

Like many terms in gridiron football, it has a military origin. In fact, it is directly borrowed from military demilitarized zones , which represent an agreed buffer area between opposing forces where neither side holds dominance.


CHASING FORTUNE

Unravel The Mystery Behind These 10 Lucky Symbols!


Published on July 9, 2024


Credit: Malvestida

Throughout history, humans have sought guidance from signs and symbols , seeking to navigate the unpredictable course of fate . From the classic four-leaf clover to the comfort of that "lucky shirt" worn on exam days or job interviews, even the most determined skeptics find themselves turning to luck at some point.

But what mysteries are hidden beneath these legendary symbols? If you want to feel that luck is on your side, delve into the history of superstition as we uncover the captivating origins of these 10 universal symbols of good luck!

1

Ladybug

Credit: Greg Rosenke

Have you ever had the lovely experience of a ladybug landing on you and strolling across your skin? If so, consider yourself one of the fortunate! Ladybugs, those charming little insects, have long been adored as symbols of luck and protection.

Legend has it that during the Middle Ages in Europe, farmers revered ladybugs as protectors of their crops , as these tiny creatures voraciously devoured the pests that threatened the crops. Over time, ladybugs became synonymous with good fortune, bringing prosperity to those who encountered them.

Today, it's believed that if a ladybug lands on you, you should make a wish and let it fly away.

2

Horseshoe

Credit: Jan Huber

The horseshoe stands as another renowned emblem of good fortune, with many people opting to sport horseshoe-shaped tattoos or pendants for that reason.

Also rooted in Europe's Middle Ages , the horseshoe's association with good luck can be attributed to both its distinctive crescent moon shape and the material from which it was made .

Iron was believed to have the power to repel negative energies and ward off evil spirits , giving the horseshoe its reputation as a protective talisman . Therefore, horseshoes were often hung on doorways and rooms, serving as symbolic guardians.

3

Number 7

Credit: Waldemar

In different parts of the world, the number 7 has been respected as a symbol of auspiciousness and abundance, becoming a sacred number for some cultures.

Its origins are varied, but many have to do with the presence of this number in nature, science, and religion . To name a few examples, there are seven colors of the rainbow, seven Christian virtues, seven continents, seven seas, seven wonders of the world, seven days of the week, and the list goes on.

So now you know, if you come across this number frequently, embrace the blessings it brings!

4

Wishbone

Credit: Claudio Schwarz

The practice of letting the wishbone dry and then breaking it while making a wish can be traced back to ancient times , with roots in the traditions of the Romans and Etruscans . These ancient cultures held birds in high regard, believing them to possess protective and divinatory powers . Hence, the wishbone came to be associated with the granting of wishes.

As European settlers brought their customs to America , they carried the tradition of breaking wishbones, which quickly became a popular convention here, persisting to this day.

5

Elephant

Credit: Nam Anh

Elephants have long been revered as symbols of abundance and prosperity , particularly in Asia, where they hold sacred status, especially in India . Their association with religious imagery has cemented their role as bearers of good fortune . As this belief transcended borders, the elephant's reputation for luck spread to other corners of the globe.

In the Western world, while the original religious connotations may have faded, the elephant retained its fame as an announcer of positivity. Thus, giving or receiving an elephant-shaped object is widely regarded as an auspicious gesture.

6

Conch shell

Credit: George Girnas

Some coastal cultures in the Caribbean revere conch shells for their beauty and the enchanting sounds they produce, attributing them with magical properties . Consequently, shells are worn as talismans , used as decorative elements for protection , or implemented as ceremonial instruments.

In the Hindu religion , conch shells are considered sacred objects that symbolize creation , often depicted alongside divine figures . And if you ever listened to the sound of the ocean by holding a conch shell to your ear, it is easy to understand why they are held in such high regard.

7

Rabbit's foot

Credit: Ансплэш Степана

Carrying around a rabbit's foot in your backpack might look a bit odd or even gruesometo some, but the prevalence of this lucky charm might surprise you. The origins of the rabbit's foot as a symbol of good luck, prosperity, and even fertility are difficult to trace, as it is a widespread tradition throughout the globe, both in the East and the West.

The specific rituals surrounding this charm can vary, with different regions attributing diverse types of fortune to it, based on how the rabbit was caught and how the paw is kept. However, these interpretations differ significantly depending on the cultural context.

8

Barnstar

Credit: Joe Dudeck

You've likely caught sight of a five-pointed star adorning a barn door or even gracing some home entrances in certain parts of our country. But do you know the story behind these lucky charms ? The barnstar emerged in American farm culture during the 18th and 19th centuries , believed to bring protection and good fortune to the homestead.

Similar to the horseshoe tradition, barnstars were often placed above doorways to ward off malevolent spirits and safeguard the household from evil intentions, protecting the good energy. So, if your home's door is lacking this auspicious adornment, maybe it's time to consider acquiring one, what do you think?

9

Jade

Credit: Jurga Ka

Jade is one of the gemstones associated with good luck. This shiny green stone, available in various hues, has been recognized as a lucky charm for centuries, particularly in Eastern cultures.

In many countries, it's customary to give jade jewelry as a gift on special occasions, as this stone is also believed to possess healing properties! So, not only does it protect and attract positivity into your life , but it is also a stylish accessory that keeps you on-trend.

10

Four-leaf Clover

Credit: Yan Ming

Saving the best for last, let's talk about the iconic four-leaf clover , renowned as one of the most celebrated symbols of good fortune worldwide. Its reputation is tied to its defining characteristic: rarity.

While three-leaf clovers hold their own charm, coming across a four-leaf clover is a great stroke of luck. With origins in Celtic culture , this belief has transcended cultural boundaries. Whether tucked inside books for years, fashioned into talismans , or immortalized in the skin as tattoos , the four-leaf clover is ever-present in humans' quest for good fortune and blessings.

Looking for an extra scoop of literary fun?

Learn more with our Word of the day

quibble

/ˈkwɪb(ə)l/