On one fateful day in 1891, Dr. James Naismith needed a way to keep his students busy indoors during the cold winters. He came up with the rules for an indoor game played with a soccer ball and a peach basket nailed onto the wall. The number of people on each team was determined by the number of students in Naismith’s gym class. The game eventually evolved into basketball, the only major sport invented in the U.S.
Basketball rules evolved over time. When the game first started, the basket had a bottom and the ball had to be removed manually each time. The original game had no dribbling, either; dribbling was only introduced in the 1950’s when the ball had become a more uniform sphere.
Naismith claimed that he based the rules of basketball on the children’s game “Duck on a Rock”.
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These are the original rules of basketball, penned by Dr. James Naismith himself (source):
1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.
2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands.
3. A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man who catches the ball when running at a good speed if he tries to stop.
4. The ball must be held in or between the hands; the arms or body must not be used for holding it.
5. No shouldering, holding, striking, pushing, or tripping in any way of an opponent. The first infringement of this rule by any person shall count as a foul; the second shall disqualify him until the next basket is made or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game. No substitution shall be allowed.
6. A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violation of rules three and four and such described in rule five.
7. If either side makes three consecutive fouls, it shall count a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the mean time making a foul).
8. A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there (without falling), providing those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.
9. When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field of play and played by the first person touching it. In case of dispute the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds. If he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on that side.
10. The umpire shall be the judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify people according to Rule 5.
11. The referee shall be judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made and keep account of the baskets, with any other duties that are usually performed by a scorekeeper.
12. The time shall be two fifteen-minute halves, with five minutes rest between.
13. The side making the most points in that time is declared the winner.
“That’s all she wrote” is an American phrase used to say that there is nothing else to say about a subject.
And where did it come from? Well, some say it’s the product of some unfortunate soldier in WWII. The tale goes like this: A soldier eagerly opens a letter from his sweetheart. He starts reading to his buddies: “Dear John.” They tell him to go on. “That’s it; that’s all she wrote.” The poor serviceman knows he just got dumped.
It’s an entertaining tale, and plausible enough. The “Dear John” phrase started being used around WWII, and a number of newspapers reference the letters. Some people credit Franklin Roosevelt with originating the phrase, though that’s probably only because he wrote a lot of letters to people named John.
Concrete written records of “that’s all she wrote” start appearing in 1942; one of the first references from the St. Petersburg Times said: “The things that brought tears to their eyes included…the downcast GI about whom another told them ‘He just got a Dear John letter.’”
The source might also have come from a song by the popular singers Aubry Gass and Tex Ritter which had the line “And that’s all she wrote, Dear John”. And the musician Ernest Tubb sang the country song “That’s All She Wrote” with the lyrics: “I got a letter from my mama, just a line or two / She said listen daddy your good girl’s leavin’ you / That’s all she wrote – didn’t write no more / She’d left the gloom a hanging round my front door.”
It’s perhaps not the most cheerful of phrase origins; but the original WWII tale made the phrase stick around to this day.
“A square meal a day” keeps the doctor away. Or so they should say.
We’re told that our meals should be square and then we’ll be the epitome of health.
But why “square”? Why not “rectangular” or “heart-shaped”?
The jury’s out on this one. The phrase probably comes from the use of “square” as meaning “fair and square”, or honest and straightforward. Who doesn’t want an honest, satisfying meal?
One of the earliest appearances of the phrase was in a U.S. newspaper in 1856:
“We can promise all who patronize us that they can always get a hearty welcome and ‘square meal’ at the ‘Hope and Neptune. Oyster, chicken and game suppers prepared at short notice.”
More literally square than figuratively square: the fifties TV dinner.
The rumors surrounding the term are more entertaining than its actual origin.
- One such tale suggests that sailors used to eat off of square plates. The plates weren’t often filled all the way, but sometimes they would receive a large enough meal to fill the whole plate, making it a literal square meal. The Royal Navy did in fact serve meals on square plates, but the much later appearance of the phrase makes it unlikely that the Navy was the origin.
- Another tale of medieval Britain suggests a square dinner plate with a bowl carved out in the middle to hold a serving of stew. Travelers would take this square with them in case they ran into some friendly neighborhood stew-cookers.
- Yet another story suggests that the rigid way soldiers sat in the U.S. Military during meals formed a square shape, making a visit to the mess hall a square meal.
None of these tales are likely true, since “square meal” only showed up mid-19th century. But they make for good stories.
An 1865 edition of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine wrote about a mining town and said, “Says the proprieter of a small shanty, in letters that send a thrill of astonishment through your brain: ‘LOOK HERE! For fifty cents you CAN GET A GOOD SQUARE MEAL at the HOWLING WILDERNESS SALOON!”
The writer needed to explain that this meant a “substantial repast” of sustenance. Clearly “square meal” needed a little time to become familiar.
World Wide Words
You hear it a lot when referring to other idioms – so-and-so coined the phrase “cat’s pajamas” and such – but where did “coin the phrase” itself come from?
“To coin a phrase” means to invent a new phrase or, more commonly today, to precede a cliched or ironic phrase.
“So shall my Lungs Coine words till their decay.” -Shakespeare
The phrase “coining” refers, as you might imagine, to making coins by stamping metal with a die. The dies that stamped the metal were called coins and the “coined” money eventually took the word as their name.
In the 16th century “coining” also transferred to the subject of language. At the time, people often counterfeited coins and coining words meant creating false phrases, putting their own stamp on questionable word choices.
A good example of this comes from George Puttenham’s The arte of English poesie:
“Young schollers not halfe well studied…will seeme to coigne fine wordes out of the Latin.”
And one of the earliest uses of the exact term “coin a phrase” is found in the newspaper The Southport American in 1848:
“Had we to find…a name which should at once convey the enthusiasm of our feelings towards her, we would coin a phrase combining the extreme of admiration and horror and term her the Angel of Assassination.”
It seems the phrase has stuck around.