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Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Aug 08, 2005 10:33 pm

• tennis •

Pronunciation: ten-is • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: A game played with rackets and a light ball by two players or two pairs of players on a rectangular court of grass, clay, or asphalt, divided by a net over which the ball is hit.

Notes: Remember that in 1874 the equipment and rules for lawn tennis were patented under the name of sphairistike. Since this name was too difficult to pronounce, it was replaced by tennis. Recall also, that the scoring in tennis has the peculiar word for "zero": love (see the Word History of love for that story).

In Play: In US parks, visitors are warned against leaving cans of tennis balls in their cars. Why? Tennis balls come in sets of three in elongated cans about the same size as the cans of certain machine-made potato chips (crisps). Bears in some parks have learned that they can find a nice treat inside these odd-sized cans but, since they still cannot read, they cannot tell the difference between the two types of cans. Tennis, anyone?

Word History: Today's healthy and stimulating game has been known since around 1400 under the name, tenetz, later tennes. It is mentioned in La Cronica di Firenze of Donato Velluti (who died in 1370) as tenes and is said to have been brought to Florence by French knights in 1325. In Old French it was tenez "Hold!", the plural imperative of tenir "to hold", from Latin tenere. The present participle of this verb is visible in lieutenant, from lieu "place" and tenant "holding".
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Postby Brazilian dude » Tue Aug 09, 2005 10:30 am

In Brazil tênis alone also means tennis shoes.

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Postby tcward » Tue Aug 09, 2005 11:05 am

1345, most likely from Anglo-Fr. tenetz "hold! receive! take!," from O.Fr. tenez, imperative of tenir "to hold, receive, take," which was used as a call from the server to his opponent. The original version of the game (a favorite sport of medieval Fr. knights) was played by striking the ball with the palm of the hand, and in O.Fr. was called la paulme, lit. "the palm," but to an onlooker the service cry would naturally seem to identify the game. The use of the word for the modern game is from 1874, short for lawn tennis, which originally was called sphairistike (1873), from Gk. sphairistike (tekhne) "(skill) in playing at ball," from the root of sphere. It was invented, and named, by Maj. Walter C. Wingfield and first played at a garden party in Wales, inspired by the popularity of badminton.

"The name 'sphairistike,' however, was impossible (if only because people would pronounce it as a word of three syllables to rhyme with 'pike') and it was soon rechristened." ["Times" of London, June 10, 1927]

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Postby anders » Tue Aug 09, 2005 1:54 pm

For some 40 years, I've not been interested enough to look it up, but for us non-natives, an explanations of "Tennis, anyone?" would have been useful.
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Aug 21, 2005 9:20 am

By some cosmic coincidence, Anders, some five days after you posted your query, Collins Word Exchange devoted some space to dealing with it in their Daily Quote. Read and enjoy !...

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Postby anders » Sun Aug 21, 2005 9:54 am

I did, and I did. Tks.
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