Sunday, 29 January 2017

A Better Deal

I accept some find card games fascinating. Unfortunately for them I am not one of them. Playing the few games I know the rules to is bad enough but watching others play just leaves me bemused. Still, each to their own and it would be a tedious world indeed if we all liked the same things.

What does interest me is the mathematics of chance and also the origins of their respective names and is the latter which I shall turn to today. Note some of these games are the same but have different names around the English-speaking world.

Baccarat is first recorded in 1848 and certainly comes from the French but is officially of unknown origin. While it is tempting to suggest this name comes from the French town of Baccarat, noted for glass-making and a place name meaning 'the altar of Bacchus', he the Roman god of wine, as the French spelling is baccara this seems unlikely.

Bezique is another of French origins, here known in France as bezigue and first seen in a document dated 1861. The game, although not the name, had been played in France since the 17th century. The name came to French from the Italian Bazzica and originally meant 'correspondence' or 'association', depending on context.

Blackjack is an alternative name for twenty-one (see below) and dates from the time when American casions were keen to attract further interest and offered increased odds should the players' hand contain the ace of spades and a black jack (either spades of clubs). This increased the game's popularity to the point where the name given to the hand, a blackjack, became the name of the game from around 1900.

Boston is based on the siege of the American city of that name and first seen around 1800. The city took its name from the town in Lincolnshire, United Kingdom and began as 'Botolph's stone'.

Brag, as a card game, is first recorded in 1734. While the origins of the name are uncertain, the name may well come from an earlier use of 'brag' to mean 'swear, curse, oath' rather than the modern usage as 'boast'.

Bridge has been recorded since 1886 but certainly much older. A version of the game is thought to have originated in the Near East. If so, then perhaps Turkish bir - uc or 'one - three' would fit the bill.

Canasta is a Uruguayan card game first recorded as recently as 1948. Played with two decks and four jokers it is the Spanish word for 'basket' and from the Latin canistrum. Thought to be named for being played with a collection of cards rather than simply a single pack.

Chemin de fer is the original version of baccarat and a name literally translating as 'the railway'. Just how this refers to a card game is not clear.

Cribbage dates from around 1620 and is named for the 'crib' or box representing the dealer's hand. Cribbiage is the oldest of the card games played with the modern pack and is derived from an earlier game known as 'noddy', 'noddle' or 'nodde' - nothing 'foolish' about this term, it simply refers to the jack or nave.

Ecarte is from the French for 'discarded', an important phase of the game involves discarding cards.

Euchre is similar to 'ecarte' and thought to come from an 18th century Germanic game Juckerspiel - the Americanisation of 'jucker' giving 'euchre' - and a reference to the top two trumps being jacks or 'jucker'.

Gin, or gin rummy, is a variation of rummy (see below). First recorded in 1941, it seems the variation was called 'gin' to link to the drink seen in 'rum(my)'.

Gleek is an old card game first seen in 1530 and, most unusually, designed for three players. This comes from French glic or ghelicque, itself from Muddle Dutch ghelic 'alike' as the aim is to collect three of the same rank.

Loo, dating from 1670, is another early card game. In full this is lanterloo, from French lanturelu and taken from a popular French comic song - the English equivalent 'turra-lurra'. Both came to mean the 'pot' via the 'bag' used to produce the music - this the loure, a bagpipe-like instrument which also gave a name to the dances associated with same.

Ombre is a 17th century card game originating in Spain and indeed named from the Spanish hombre or 'man'. Originally the player declaring would state Yo soy el hombre or 'I am the man' but this was soon abbreviated.

Patience is aptly named as it takes a good deal (pun intended) of it for the solution is not always possible.

Pinocle is derived from bezique (see above) and comes from the French word binocle meaning 'eyeglasses' and also the source of the English 'binoculars'.

Poker is first mentioned in a document dated 1834. While the etymology is not certain, it could come from a similar German game Pochspiel where the first element pochen means 'to brag as a bluff'.

Quadrille is taken directly from the French where, in the 17th century, the military paraded four mounted horsemen in series of moves and formations. The card game also requires some tactical manoeuvres by four players.

Rummy is first recorded in 1910 as 'rhummy'. The word has been used as both a 'drunkard' from 1851 and to refer to 'one who opposes temperance' from shortly afterwards. However neither of these seems truly related to the name of the card game and thus the origins must be said to be unknown.

Sevens is similar to patience and/or solitaire in style but played by between three and seven players. However the number of players is not the origin but how the game progresses, for the idea is to rid oneself of all cards in one's hand in order of rank but, in order to give equal chance to play above and below, the starting point for each suit is the seven.

Snap, as a name, really does explain itself. It is related to other games with far less obvious names such as Egyptian Ratscrew and Beggar-my-neighbour.

Solitaire is an alternative name for patience (see above) and another apt name for a solitary card game.

Twenty-one is the same game as blackjack (see above) where the object is to score that number.

Vingt-et-un is the French for 'twenty-one' and nothing more needs to be said.

Trump is something I could not resist examining because it's a name I could not get out of my head - for those unaware Mr Trump is among the world's best snooker players. In cards it is a variation of 'triumph' and a noun used to refer to a card of a higher ranking suit. 'Trump' is also used as verb to mean 'surpass, beat' since 1580 and earlier, since 1510 and again as a verb, to mean 'fabricate, devise' in one context and 'deceive, cheat' in another. I have to say I have never had cause to think Judd Trump ever cheated at snooker and thoroughly earned his number one world ranking in 2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment