World’s Strangest

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The Quick 10: The Original Names of 10 Sports

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 these and the names of seven other 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 amongst one another with racquets, also known as battledores.

3. Mintonette. Speaking of Badminton, it’s why volleyball was originally called Mintonette by its creator, William G. Morgan. Because much of the game play was similar to Badminton, he simply named it after the existing sport. Back when it was called Mintonette, players actually had to dribble the ball like basketball. The name changed when a player suggested the ball volleyed over the net like cannon fire; the name eventually 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 Williams sisters’ sport – 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 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. Shovillaborde. Long before it was considered a leisure activity for bar rats or the elderly, shuffleboard was a royal game. Henry VIII loved shovillaborde, AKA shovel board, and refused to let commoners play the kingly sport.

9. Wiff waff or Gossima. Honestly, I think I prefer “wiff waff” to “ping pong.” 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 wiff waff then, but when a marketer caught his own whiff of the game and started selling real paddles and balls, it was deemed Gossima.

10. Kick Baseball. I grew up with kickball on the playground and I bet a lot of you did too. If you’re familiar with the rules, 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.

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