I hear someone asking themselves, “What does this picture have anything to do with tennis?” If it’s you I’m hearing, read on.
As I am sure it is the case with any sport, tennis has it’s own funny quirks.
US Open Ticket-holder #1: What did they just say?
US Open Ticket-holder #2: Love.
US Open Ticket-holder #1: Who’s in love?
Okay – this exchange probably wouldn’t take place between two people who had actually purchased tickets to watch a professional tennis match…But, the US Open is pretty regularly referred to as a ‘social event’ – attracting fans and novices alike – for the prestige.
So for all you socialites out there, who received a ticket to the US Open in the mail from your manager/boyfriend/PR team and would like to avoid the embarrassing conversation I just cited, listen in while I explain the meaning and ancestry of tennis’ most talked about term.
Fans – you might enjoy this too!
In tennis, “love” refers to a player’s score of zero. In any game, a player must win four points, (by two). Those points are: 15, (you can think of this as point one) 30, (two) 40, (three) and finally, game, (the winning fourth point). But before you get any of those numbers on your scoreboard, you start with love. Nothing. Love = nothing. Sound a little pessimistic? It’s not.
The word “love”, as it is used to describe zero points in a game of tennis, has two very logical theories of origin – one British and one French, both debated.
The English conception, (if true) supposes that the phrase “neither for love, nor money,” was reduced simply, to “love”, meaning that a player, even with zero points, was still playing purely for the love of the sport. (Unless you’re Serena Williams, then you’ve played for 38 million.)
The French version, which seems to be more widely accepted, says that the term “love” came from a mispronunciation and eventual change of the French word “l’oeuf”, meaning “egg”, which was originally used in France, (where tennis is said to have originated) because of an egg’s similar appearance to the number zero, (0). Egg = 0 = l’oeuf = the English hearing “love” and just saying “love” from then on.
Regardless of which you choose to support, either is better than subscribing to some idea that tennis as a sport believes that “love” and “nothing” are synonyms. That would be a turn-off.
Who doesn’t love water-cooler trivia? Here are a few fun facts:
The name “Tennis” : Some believe it was the ancient Egyptians who created the precursor for the game we play today in a town called “Tinnis” along the Nile. Others say “tennis” comes from the French word, “tenez” meaning “take it”, as in sending the ball to your opponent.
Early Tennis : Truthfully, modern tennis came about by slowly moving away from handball. It was popular amongst French monks who’d play strictly with their hands and a rope. As it became an everyman sport, players first wore gloves, then webbed-gloves, then paddles, and finally, rackets.
On that subject : It is believed that the term “racket” actually evolved from the Arabic word, “rahat”, meaning “palm”. See the connection?
That’s plenty to make you sound really smart and impressive at the US Open this month.
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