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Tennis words amongst those to be added to the Oxford English Dictionary

Released on June 27, 2017

27th June, Oxford, UK -- Today the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) announces its latest update, which includes a batch of tennis-related words, as well as a tranche of other additions from the lifestyle, current affairs, and educational worlds.

Words for Wimbledon

Over 50 new words and 30 new senses related to tennis are being added to the OED today, with the help of consultants from the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC). Robert McNicol, Librarian at the AELTC, said: “Tennis is renowned for its many long-held traditions, and part of that is the unique language used to describe particular playing shots and racket techniques. I was honoured to be invited to offer my expertise on the tennis-themed words to be included in the Oxford English Dictionary.”

As well as terms that are unique to sport, such as golden slam, there are also new senses of existing words such as bagel. Tennis slang, coined by player Eddie Dibbs in the 1970’s, ‘bagel’ refers to a score in a set of six games to love due to the similarity of the numeral 0 to the shape of a bagel! Superbrat is also a word which is used in contexts other than tennis, but was famously applied to the tennis player John McEnroe by the British press in response to outbursts on court.

Playing terms such as forced error and chip and charge are included in this update. The former describes a mistake in play which is attributed to the skill of one’s opponent rather than the player’s own misjudgement. The latter is a term for an attacking style of play, in which the player approaches the net behind a sliced shot. Other styles added include the aggressive power tennis and the more composed percentage tennis.

The game has also inspired descriptions for types of parents whose children play tennis. Both tennis mom and tennis dad describe parents who actively and enthusiastically support their child’s participation in the sport. Interestingly, the spelling tennis mum started life in the 1970s with an alternative sense, referring to a woman who has returned to playing tennis after becoming a mother.

Tennis scores themselves have an interesting history. Forty refers to the third point, but was originally called ‘forty-five’ or ‘five and forty’ in the 16th Century. It is thought the ‘five’ was dropped for the convenience of calling out ‘forty’.

Other tennis words and terms:
career slam (noun) A complete set of major championship titles won over the course of a player’s career, rather than in a single calendar year.                                                                
changeover (noun) A pause in a match during which the players swap sides of the court or pitch.                                                                  
continental grip (noun) A manner of gripping the racket in which (for a right-handed player) the bottom knuckle of the index finger is in contact with the top of the handle and the heel of the hand with the bevel immediately clockwise from it, used for a variety of shots but now the standard grip for serving and volleying.
eastern grip (noun) A manner of gripping the racket in which the first knuckle of the index finger and the heel of the hand are in contact with the top of the handle, typically used for flat forehand shots.
semi-western grip (noun) A manner of gripping the racket in which the bottom knuckle of the index finger is in contact with the right vertical panel of the racket handle and the heel of the hand with the bevel immediately clockwise from it, now used to generate topspin on shots.                 

What else is new to the OED?

In 2016, Oxford Dictionaries announced post-truth as its Word of the Year. Since then, the huge increase in usage of the word has given the lexicographers enough evidence to add it to the OED. A new sense of woke, which was shortlisted for Word of the Year, has also been added, meaning ‘alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice.’ Its use by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement, and in particular the phrase ‘stay woke’, is thought to have introduced the word to a broader audience, especially on social media.

Since the introduction of the term ‘academy’ to the English school system in 2000, this type of independently publicly run school has featured heavily in UK news. This OED update includes a new related sense of the verb academize, to convert a school into such an academy. Adding to the educational theme is the acronym for massive open online course, MOOC.

Often displaying a playful side to the English language, colloquialisms and slang words have always had their place in the OED. In this update, footless (as in, footless drunk, an alternative to the more familiar ‘legless’), swimmer (sperm) and son of a bachelor (a euphemistic alternative to ‘son of a bitch’) all enter the dictionary. To have a canary means ‘to lose one’s composure’ and a new usage of thing is often used in questions conveying surprise or incredulity, such as ‘how can that be a thing?’ This has been traced back to an early episode of television series The West Wing.

Who knew there were so many different types of wedding veils? Birdcage veil, blusher veil, cathedral veil, and fingertip veil have all been added. In other lifestyle additions, Danish trend and culture reference hygge is now in (pronounced hʊɡə), defined as ‘a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.’ Interestingly, although it is considered a relatively new concept in UK and US media, the first evidence in English is actually from the Capital Times in 1960. Finally, in scientific word news, ZYZZYVA is a genus of tropical weevils native to South America and typically found on or near palm trees. It has also become the new ‘last word’ in the OED.

Notes for Editors

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