"drop" in sports: lose (1884), defeat (1920)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Tue Apr 19 19:29:08 UTC 2005

Ben, who are the "Hun representatives" in 1884 ?


Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Benjamin Zimmer
Subject: "drop" in sports: lose (1884), defeat (1920)

I noticed these dueling headlines from AP Sports the other day:

"Celtics Drop 76ers, Eye Atlantic Title"
"Spurs Drop Blazers, Clinch Southwest Title"

"Drop" is often used by sports headline writers with one of two meanings:
'to lose (a game)' or 'to defeat (a team)', as above. The 'lose' sense is
in the OED with a first cite of 1961, but the 'defeat' sense is not yet
included (thoug it seems related to OED def. 18, 'to fell with a blow').

The cites below are from a quick search on Proquest headlines -- earlier
examples can no doubt be found without much difficulty.

* drop = 'lose (a game)'

Union Nine Drops Its First Game to the Hun Representatives.
Boston Globe, May 25, 1884, p. 3
Phillies Drop a Game to Buffalo, and New York Gets Away with Cleveland.
Boston Globe, Jun 29, 1884, p. 3
Boston Unions Drop Another Game in Milwaukee.
Boston Globe, Oct 7, 1884, p. 5
The Cricket Club of St. Paul's School Drops a Game to the Longwood Second
Boston Globe, Jun 20, 1885, p. 2
The New Yorks Drop a Game to the Detroits.
Washington Post, Sep 17, 1885, p. 3

* drop = 'defeat (a team)'

Reds Drop Phillies.
Los Angeles Times, Jun 25, 1920, p. III2
Giants Drop Pirates.
Atlanta Constitution, Aug 26, 1921, p. 10
Meusel Helps Giants to Drop Braves Twice.
Washington Post, Apr 20, 1923, p. 12

(The 'defeat' sense appeared in Washington Post headlines quite frequently
during the 1923 baseball season.)

--Ben Zimmer

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