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The new game of badminton, circa 1874. Getty
The new game of badminton, circa 1874. Getty

The Original Names of 10 Sports

The new game of badminton, circa 1874. Getty
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

Circa 1871. Getty

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).

3. MINTONETTE

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.

4. SPHAIRISTIKE

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.

9. SHOVELBOARD

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.

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Paramount Home Video
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entertainment
Impossible Figure Skating Moves from the Movies
Paramount Home Video
Paramount Home Video

Figure skating is always one of the most anticipated events during the Winter Olympics. But in Hollywood, filmmakers have taken a few liberties on the ice, namely when it comes to some of the technical elements. And the judges are not impressed. Here are a couple of skating moves that could never have been completed without a bit of movie magic.

THE CUTTING EDGE

It's a climactic moment near the end of the 1992 movie, The Cutting Edge, when figure skater Kate Moseley (played by actress Moira Kelly) turns to her pairs partner Doug Dorsey (D.B. Sweeney) just before they are to take the ice at the Olympics and excitedly declares, “We're doing the Pamchenko!”

Frantic, Doug tries to talk her out of it. “Forget it. It's too dangerous,” he yells over the sound of the cheering crowd at the skating arena.

They argue right up to the very moment their music starts on the ice about whether to attempt the controversial “Pamchenko twist,” a highly difficult and dangerous maneuver their coach invented that, if completed during their skate, would mean an instant gold medal. Long story short (spoiler), they execute the move flawlessly and the movie ends with no doubt that they've won Olympic gold.

It's a triumphant ending. But let's just say there's a very good reason the filmmakers used a series of cuts to create the illusion that they actually did the move. The truth is, the Pamchenko twist is impossible.

Earlier in the film, coach Anton Pamchenko (Roy Dotrice) tosses a bunch of weathered looking diagrams onto the ice during a practice that detail a highly dangerous pairs move he has been inventing for the last 20 years.

Intrigued, Doug takes a look. “A bounce spin into a throw twist ... and I catch her?”

The Pamchenko twist does have a basis in reality. It is composed of two parts, as Doug deftly put it. The first part is a “bounce spin,” which is a real move that is actually illegal in competition, per International Skating Union rules. It's often performed in exhibitions and shows because it is quite a death-defying crowd-pleaser—the man grabs the woman by her feet and swings her up and down as he rotates. The woman's head typically comes mere inches from smashing on the ice if it is done correctly. If done incorrectly ... well, just try not to think about that.

The second part is a “throw twist,” more commonly known as a “split twist.” This is a required technical element in high-level pairs competition. To get full credit, a man and woman must start skating backward together. The male partner typically launches the female above his head, where she splits her legs and twists in midair as she pulls them back together. The man catches her as she comes down. Elite-level pairs teams regularly complete triple-twists (the woman does three rotations in the air). Two-time Olympic champions Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov completed a textbook split triple-twist in their long program in the 1988 Olympics—the first technical element in this video.

Now, put the bounce spin together with the throw twist. The physics just don't compute. The centrifugal force built up during the bounce spin would launch the woman—assuming she is released at the highest point of the bounce spin—on a parabolic trajectory. In theory, she could use the momentum to twist in the air, but it's highly unlikely that she would be thrown high enough to pull it off without getting her head smashed onto the ice during the bounce spin. And even if she did, the horizontal trajectory would launch her so far away from her partner that there's no realistic way he could have enough time to stop his own momentum from the spinning and traverse the distance to catch her.

Pamchenko says in the film that it's all about the timing. But frankly, it's not worth risking the horrifying injuries that would inevitably result to test his theory. There are plenty of other legal and physically possible moves pairs skaters can spend their time and energy perfecting.

BLADES OF GLORY

In Blades of Glory, Will Ferrell and Jon Heder play two champion singles skaters who are banned from men's competition for life after an unseemly incident at a competition. Desperate to get back on the ice, they team up as a pair. In order to stand a chance of beating reigning pairs champions Stronz and Fairchild (Amy Poehler and Will Arnett), they attempt a highly dangerous and difficult maneuver called the Iron Lotus—which has only ever been attempted in North Korea with comically disastrous results.

If the Pamchenko twist is impossible, the Iron Lotus is downright laughable—which is the point, of course. It starts out the same way, with a bounce spin. However, at the height of the bounce, the male skater launches the female into a back flip instead of a twist. While she's flipping, he does an Arabian cartwheel underneath her. Once completed, he catches her by the arm and leg, and the pair gracefully rotate out of it together.

“I swear to God, if you cut my head off,” Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell) warns his partner, Jimmy MacElroy (Heder), before they attempt it in the final performance of the film. As they launch into it, their coach (Craig T. Nelson) screams, “No! Don't do it! I was wrong, it's suicide!”

But wordlessly, magically, they nail it. Or rather, computer-animated stunt doubles nail it, because it's physically impossible. It would require the “female” skater to reverse her momentum in mid-air to transition from the bounce spin into the back flip. Maybe it's possible on the moon, where gravity isn't so much of a factor.

So what have we learned from this little figure skating physics lesson? You won't be seeing any Pamchenko twists or Iron Lotuses in Pyeongchang. And don't try any of this at home.

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Big Questions
What Are Curlers Yelling About?
WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images
WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Curling is a sport that prides itself on civility—in fact, one of its key tenets is known as the “Spirit of Curling,” a term that illustrates the respect that the athletes have for both their own teammates and their opponents. But if you’re one of the millions of people who get absorbed by the sport once every four years, you probably noticed one quirk that is decidedly uncivilized: the yelling.

Watch any curling match and you’ll hear skips—or captains—on both sides barking and shouting as the 42-pound stone rumbles down the ice. This isn’t trash talk; it’s strategy. And, of course, curlers have their own jargon, so while their screams won’t make a whole lot of sense to the uninitiated, they could decide whether or not a team will have a spot on the podium once these Olympics are over.

For instance, when you hear a skip shouting “Whoa!” it means he or she needs their teammates to stop sweeping. Shouting “Hard!” means the others need to start sweeping faster. If that’s still not getting the job done, yelling “Hurry hard!” will likely drive the point home: pick up the intensity and sweep with downward pressure. A "Clean!" yell means put a brush on the ice but apply no pressure. This will clear the ice so the stone can glide more easily.

There's no regulation for the shouts, though—curler Erika Brown says she shouts “Right off!” and “Whoa!” to get her teammates to stop sweeping. And when it's time for the team to start sweeping, you might hear "Yes!" or "Sweep!" or "Get on it!" The actual terminology isn't as important as how the phrase is shouted. Curling is a sport predicated on feel, and it’s often the volume and urgency in the skip’s voice (and what shade of red they’re turning) that’s the most important aspect of the shouting.

If you need any more reason to make curling your favorite winter sport, once all that yelling is over and a winner is declared, it's not uncommon for both teams to go out for a round of drinks afterwards (with the winners picking up the tab, obviously). Find out how you can pick up a brush and learn the ins and outs of curling with our beginner's guide.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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