Friday 26 October 2012

Club and Club

It's a funny little thing that a golf club can either be a nine iron used to hit a ball, or an organisation that you join because you like playing golf. Similarly, somebody could be described as clubbable because they're the sort of social chap who's welcome in any gentleman's club or because they could easily be hit over the head with a club.

What is the connection? The medieval meaning of club was big stick used to hit things with, the sort of thing slouching cavemen are usually depicted with. However, if you don't have a club of your own, you can always make one. The simplest way to do this is mentioned in a 1625 passage about people warding off elephants:

Many times they fall upon the elephants which come to feed where they be, and so beate them with their clubbed fists, and pieces of wood, that they will runne roaring away from them.

You can make a club out of anything, even your hair. Ladies in the eighteenth century would often wear their hair in a club, which is to say that it wrapped together into what we'd call a bun on top of their heads. And metaphorically, you can wrap people together to make them one powerful object, like a club.

The sense development here is, to be honest, pretty damned obscure. Maybe the haircut was the bridge or maybe the sense of a group of soldiers formed into one blunt and brutal club. But pretty much everybody agrees that the idea of a club of people is that metaphorically they have come together like the instrument carried by a slouching caveman.

So a golf club and a golf club are, etymologically, one and the same.

Both are now weapons

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget the club sandwich-presumably several fillings gathering together.
    Men too wore their hair in a club in the 18/19th century,think of sailors' pigtails gathered into a club at the back of their necks.
    PS am I right in thinking this is the third anniversary of Inky Fool-if so many congratulations!