basketball slang

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Wed Dec 15 05:59:33 UTC 2004

On Tue, 14 Dec 2004 23:09:11 -0500, Jesse Sheidlower <jester at PANIX.COM>

>On Tue, Dec 14, 2004 at 09:28:32PM -0600, Mullins, Bill wrote:
>> I notice that "cager" isn't in the OED.  Has anyone done a list
>> of basketball slang?
>Yes, there are books and lists of basketball slang. And we're
>well aware of OED's deficiencies in this area, and have been
>taking steps to improve it. Cites welcome!

I've read that basketball players were called "cagers" because at the turn
of the 20th century the game was played in a large mesh cage.  This site
gives some information on the team from Trenton, NJ, who supposedly had
the first basketball cage: <>.

Newspaperarchive (which includes the Trenton Times) has many references to
Trenton's cage, but no use of "cager" from that period as far as I can
see.  The first cite that I can find is from 1911:

   Sandusky (Ohio) Register, Dec 8, 1911, p. 16
   The quintet of basket cagers representing Sandusky Business College
   will have its first real taste of the sport this evening when they
   have the fast five representing Lakeside High, here for a game to
   be played at the Diamond Skating rink.

-- Ben Zimmer

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