The Original Names of 10 Sports
The new game of badminton, circa 1874. Getty
If history hadn't changed, we would be watching Gabrielle Reece dominate mintonette, Tony Hawk would be a leader in the world of sidewalk surfing, and Forrest Gump would have been an amazing wiff waff player. Check out the names of 10 sports before they became what we know them as today.
1. KITTEN BALL
The sport we know as softball today was named kitten ball when it came onto the scene in 1895. Between that time and 1926, it was also referred to as "diamond ball," "mush ball" and "pumpkin ball." The phrase "softball" was coined in 1926 by Walter Hakanson of the Denver YMCA.
2. BATTLEDORE AND SHUTTLECOCK
It’s not exactly fair to say that this is what badminton was once called—it might be more appropriate to say this game evolved into badminton. Battledore and shuttlecock was an old game quite similar to badminton, minus the net. The players simply tried to keep the shuttlecock in the air as long as possible by batting it around with racquets (known as battledores).
Speaking of badminton, that game is the reason today's volleyball was originally called mintonette. Because much of the game play was similar to badminton (players keep an object bouncing back and forth across a net), its creator, William G. Morgan, the director of a Massachusetts YMCA, simply named it something similar to the existing sport. The name changed when a player suggested the ball volleyed over the net like cannon fire, and eventually the new term stuck.
Tennis has been around in some form or another for centuries, but in December 1873, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield invented "Sphairistike," or lawn tennis, to amuse his garden party guests. It’s more similar to the modern game of tennis than any of the older versions. Those older versions are sometimes called "real tennis" to differentiate them from the game the Williams sisters play—William Shakespeare mentioned real tennis in Henry V.
5. PADDLE RACKETS
When Joe Sobek invented racquetball in 1950, he didn’t call it that. He named his creation "paddle rackets," and even founded the National Paddle Rackets Association in 1952. As it gained popularity, professional tennis player Bob McInerney began calling it racquetball and the name slowly took over.
6. PAILLE MAILLE
The earliest published occurrence of the word "croquet" is 1856. Prior to that, the Queen of Hearts' favorite game was called "paille maille" (or any number of variations such as pall mall and pelemele). Some early descriptions of paille maille suggest that at one point, it was played over a large area of land (such as in golf) before it evolved to the short lawn version we know today.
7. SIDEWALK SURFING
You can probably figure out that skateboarding is just surfing on land. The sport is thought to have originated when California surfers were looking for a replacement for surfing when the waves were unfit to ride.
8. WHIFF-WAFF OR GOSSIMA
It's said the British upper class developed the game in the 1880s, using books to knock a golf ball back and forth across a center barrier. It may have been called whiff-waff then, but when a marketer caught his own whiff of the game and started selling real paddles and balls, it became known as gossima.
Long before it was considered a leisure activity for bar rats or the elderly, shuffleboard was a royal game. Henry VIII in particular loved "shovillaborde," a.k.a. shovelboard, and he refused to let commoners play the kingly sport.
10. KICK BASEBALL
If you’re familiar with the rules of kickball, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that kickball was invented by a playground supervisor to teach kids the rules of baseball. Over the years (and in different regions) it has also been known as soccer-base or soccer-baseball.
A version of this story originally ran in 2011.