Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sweet nothings

Dear Spies and Snoops,

Last time we were talking about tennis (um, at least I was...) and the funny words for scoring and where they might come from.

Well, nothing is certain! especially with words. But it looks like the word for "nothing" in tennis, which is "love", might come from a French word, because tennis was very popular in France for hundreds of years.

The French word "l'oeuf" means "egg". It is pronounced "lerf" (more or less.) And what does an egg look like? (before you crack it open I mean) Yes, it looks like an oval - the shape of the number -


So the idea is that "l'oeuf" was a nickname given to the number zero. Then, after a while, the sound of the word "l'oeuf" turned into "lerv" and then "love." (Aah!)

Now, not everyone agrees with this. But tennis is not the only game that thinks of eggs when there is no score. Do you know the expression "out for a duck" in cricket? "Duck" is short for "duck's egg" or, yep, zero, which is the shape of an egg. When you are out for a duck, your score of runs is zero.

Zero, nought, nothing, nil, nada, zilch. Funny how many words there are for nothing - including "LOVE".

yours, feeling empty,

the Word Spy

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