"the 12th man" redux

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Sat Feb 1 04:16:36 UTC 2014

My latest Wall Street Journal column is on "the 12th man," a phrase
that the Seattle Seahawks have to pay Texas A&M a licensing fee to
use. I present some historical evidence that might undercut A&M's
trademark claim, including examples of "the 12th man" to refer to fans
of college football teams predating the legendary 1922 A&M game where,
according to Aggie lore, the phrase was born.

Link to column: http://on.wsj.com/12manbz

Google Books provides the early cites:

Minnesota Magazine, Sept. 1900, p. 32
"The mysterious influence of the twelfth man on the [University of
Minnesota] team, the rooter, should be as great as any of the rest."

The Iowa Alumnus, Nov. 1912, p. 30
"The eleven men had done their best; but the twelfth man on the team
(the loyal spirited Iowa rooter) had won the game for old S.U.I.
[State University of Iowa, now the University of Iowa]."

More to come on Monday in my Word Routes column on Vocabulary.com and
the Visual Thesaurus.


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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