[Ads-l] Playerspeak: "in the zone"

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 6 12:58:26 UTC 2016


Thanks for your response, Jesse. Apologies for not searching for "the
zone" in the magnificent OED. The 1976 citation is excellent, and it
points to an intriguing connection to Arthur Ashe. There is evidence
that Ashe helped popularize the term. Indeed, he may have coined it.

Thanks for your insightful comment, George. Below is a circa 1981
citation that shows a connection between "in the zone" and the
television show "The Twilight Zone".  This supports Wilson's wonderful
suggestion based on his remarkable memory.

The article quotes Arthur Ashe stating that the term "the Zone" was
inspired by the television show.

Year: 1981
Periodical: World Tennis
Volume: 29
Issues: 7-12
Quote Page 50
Database: Google Books Snippet; data may in accurate; should be
verified on paper

[Begin extracted text]
In The Zone

In 'The Zone' Hey, everybody, remember how we used to watch "The
Twilight Zone" on television every week? It was a fascinating,
mysterious and scary show because inexplicably and without warning
something strange would happen to unsuspecting people. For a time they
were not in control of their lives. It made for great theatre so we
tuned in, with a shudder and a smile and a suspension of disbelief,
and we loved it, because nothing strange was happening to us. "The
Twilight Zone" had picked them.

There is a zone spoken of in tennis. According to Arthur Ashe, "It got
its name from the TV show, and it translates, more or less, into
'another world.' "This zone is fascinating and mysterious too, and
though it is not scary it is certainly tantalizing, elusive,
ephemeral. When a player is "in the zone" he is in total control of
his game.
[End extracted text]

Garson


On Fri, May 6, 2016 at 12:16 PM, George Thompson
<george.thompson at nyu.edu> wrote:
> I take Wilson to be more interested in the etymology offered by his
> recollection, not the date that the term first came into use.  The OED's
> entry doesn't offer a connection to the Twilight Zone.
>
> I don't seem to have access to the full text of Sports Illustrated before
> the early 1980s.  If Wilson's recollection that the article he is thinking
> of was written when "in the zone" was still a novelty, then it is not
> retrievable through the usual popular-periodical databases.  I think that
> most of us have learned to trust Wilson's recollections, and anyway, the
> fact that the writer was asking a player to explain the term certainly
> suggests that it was from the mid 1970s.
>
> GAT
>
> On Fri, May 6, 2016 at 6:10 AM, Jesse Sheidlower <jester at panix.com> wrote:
>
>> Shouldn't checking the OED be the start? ;-)
>>
>> The entry was drafted in 2002 and thus presumably could be improved upon
>> by now, but OED does have a 1976 example:
>>
>> 1976 San Francisco Chron. 27 Oct. 47/1 Tennis players speak reverently of
>> the mystical atmospheric condition known as ‘The Zone’. Passing shots chip
>> away at the lines, first serves pop in and mistakes simply don't
>> materialize. Arthur Ashe's experience in The Zone during his last Wimbledon
>> championship bordered on the surreal.
>>
>> Jesse Sheidlower
>>
>> On Fri, May 06, 2016 at 02:32:38AM -0400, ADSGarson O'Toole wrote:
>> > Here is a start. Researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihályi has popularized a
>> > notion of "flow". A Wikipedia article notes: "Achieving flow is often
>> > colloquially referred to as being in the zone."
>> >
>> > It seems that Csikszentmihályi may not have used the phrase "in the
>> > zone". He wrote a book in 1975 titled "Beyond Boredom and Anxiety". I
>> > think he used the term "flow state". But I do not know when he started
>> > to use that phrase.
>> >
>> > The research of Csikszentmihalyi was mentioned in a 1986 "New York
>> > Times" article that used the phrase "in the zone" and presented an
>> > explication. But the article did not attempt explain the origin of the
>> > "zone" expression.
>> >
>> > Article: 'Zone' Is Winning Territory
>> > Byline: HOLCOMB B. NOBLE
>> > Newspaper: New York Times
>> > Newspaper Location: New York
>> > Date: September 5, 1986
>> > Quote Page D15
>> > Database: ProQuest
>> >
>> > [Begin excerpt]
>> > Studies by sports psychologists and close students of tennis are
>> > taking much of the mystery out of why Ivan Lendl or Boris Becker or
>> > the world's other great players always seem to win the big points.
>> >
>> > The answer, according to the sports-related research, lies to a large
>> > extent in the "zone," as the players call it. "Becker's in the zone,"
>> > they say, or "Becker's zoning it"
>> >
>> > The "zone" they refer to is roughly equivalent to what psychological
>> > researchers describe as a level of concentration so complete and
>> > intense that it evokes a state of almost semiconscious euphoria — one
>> > that many believe bears a resemblance to hypnosis, and enables a top
>> > player to achieve his or her peak performance.
>> > [End excerpt]
>> >
>> > Garson
>> >
>> >
>> > On Fri, May 6, 2016 at 1:42 AM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
>> > > In some issue of Sports Illustrated from the last century, I seem to
>> recall
>> > > reading something similar to this.
>> > > When the phrase, "in the zone," was fresh and new, an SI writer asked a
>> > > basketball(?)-player what the source of the phrase was or what the
>> "zone"
>> > > was or something like that. The player answered that the inspiration
>> for
>> > > the phrase was Rod Serling's introductory spiel in which he stated
>> that an
>> > > episode of his show was something weird and unexplained that took
>> place "in
>> > > the Twilight Zone." So, when a player's game inexplicably became
>> > > near-perfect, shots falling into the basket as though the ball had
>> eyes, it
>> > > seemed as bizarre as though it was happening "in the Twilight Zone,"
>> both
>> > > to the player and to the other players.
>> > >
>> > > Anybody else have any facts or opinions on this?
>> > > --
>> > > -Wilson
>> > > -----
>> > > All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
>> > > come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
>> > > -Mark Twain
>> > >
>> > > ------------------------------------------------------------
>> > > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>> >
>> > ------------------------------------------------------------
>> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>
>
>
>
> --
> George A. Thompson
> The Guy Who Still Looks Stuff Up in Books.
> Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
> Univ. Pr., 1998..
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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


More information about the Ads-l mailing list