Hookers, breaststroke and shuttlecock

by Ant Sims

People who don’t watch sport will often find themselves with a few raised eyebrows when certain sporting terms are brought up.  From going in hard, finding your team’s penetration and straddling the opposition, sport is filled with some filthy sayings which sound completely normal to those who watch and report on it regularly.


Hooker – those who are familiar with the game of rugby will be familiar with the term “hooker”. Those who watch the game might not even flinch when they hear the word used in conversation about the sport, but if rugby is completely alien to you, hooker might seem peculiar and even a little bit filthy. It doesn’t mean some big sweaty guy is going around soliciting sex to others on the field, it simply means he’s the guy who is trying to “hook” the ball in the scrum (that big pack of guys locking shoulders and shoving each other around).

Hat-trick – In cricket, a hat-trick refers to taking three wickets in three consecutive balls while in soccer it refers to a player scoring three goals. The term comes from way back in 1858 when HH Stephenson took three wickets in three balls and a collection was held for his feat. He was presented with the proceeds in a hat and the term was first used in print in 1878.

 Love – In tennis, when somebody doesn’t score anything in a set, the score is referred to as “love”. There are two theories for why it is so. The most commonly accepted theory is that it comes from the phrase to play “for love” (in other words, for nothing). Basically meaning those who don’t score anything on a regular basis can only do so for the love of the game. Another, less popular theory is that it comes from the French word l’oeuf, meaning ‘an egg’ (from the similar appearance of an egg and a nought)

Breaststroke – Less interesting, more just innuendo-laden. Breaststroke is a style of swimming on your breast. If you’ve got the inclination of a dirty mind, however…

Shuttlecock – Another one of those terms that raises a knowing chuckle. A shuttlecock is the little thing hit around in badminton. The shuttle part comes from the front part moving back and forth, like a shuttle, and the cock simply because the back of it used to be made out of feathers.

Cow corner – This is fielding position in cricket not very commonly used. The term apparently comes from Dulwich College where part of the field contained livestock, right on the edge of the playing area and those sent to field there were told to go to “cow corner”.

Banjo hitter – In baseball, a player who lacks power is referred to as a banjo hitter. Apparently the name comes from the sound the bat makes at contact, kind of like a banjo.

Going fishing (or fishing outside off) – in cricket, when a ball flies very wide past the batsman and there is absolutely no need to play at it, but a player still sticks his or her bat out to play at it, the term is “fishing outside off” while in baseball, the term is similarly used when a batter goes across his plate to hit a ball outside the pitch, chasing a ball he can’t reach.


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