game leg

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game leg

Post by Archived Topic » Tue Jul 20, 2004 10:20 pm

I have been wondering how the meaning of game originated when applied to a dodgy limb. My dictionary gives it as "18th Century origin unknown". What do the panel think?
Maybe it has something to do with LAME. It is pronounced here as "gammy".

MG London
Submitted by Melvyn Goodman (London - England)
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game leg

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Jul 20, 2004 10:34 pm

Mel, Opinions on the origin of this one seem to vary and many dictionaries, including the New Shorter OED, say ‘origin unknown’ or ‘uncertain. After checking several sources, though’ I tend to go with the camp that says ‘game’ here derives from the archaic French ‘gambi’ meaning crooked which later somehow morphed into the English dialect ‘gam’ or ‘gammy,’ which also meant crooked and finally into the more modern ‘game.’
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GAME 18th century, The etymology of ‘game’ (lame) and its derivative ‘gammy’(19th century) are not related to that of ‘game’ as a pastime or sport. They instead are derived from the archaic French ‘gambi’ meaning ‘crooked.’– Dictionary of Word Origins
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GAME LEG: A ‘game leg’ is a bad leg, the ‘game’ here probably from the English dialect ‘gam’ or ‘gammy,’ both meaning crooked. The expression isn’t recorded until late in the 18th century. – Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins
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GAME LEG adjective: Lame [1780–90; perhaps shortening of ‘gammy,’ though change in vowel unclear] – Random House Unabridged Dictionary
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GAME adjective, Late 18th century [Origin unknown. Cf. ‘gammy.’]: Of limb; crippled, lame. – New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary
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GAME adjective, 1787, of uncertain origin (possibly a variant of ‘gammy,’ slang for bad. 1839, though the date is late, the record of slang is often defective ): Lame – Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology
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GAMMY adjective, Mid-19th century [Dialectical variaiton of ‘game’ ((crippled, lame)): 1. Bad; not good or genuine. ‘slang.’ Now ‘rare’ or ‘obsolete.’ Mid-19th century. 2. Disabled through injury or pain. Cf. ‘game’ adjective Late 19th century. ‘He couldn’t dance because of his gammy leg.’—M. Keane (New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.
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I’ll just mention one bogus, but interesting, etymology (as most bogus derivations are), that I came across. It said that the game in ‘game leg’ derives from the same ‘game’ as in ‘game face,’ [[bye the bye, a mid-20th century sports expression]] which means a mask of hardihood or determination one uses to conceal one’s own doubt, pain, or anxiety. Trouble with that one is that, that ‘game’ derives from the mid-19th century form of ‘game’ meaning 1. having the necessary spirit or will ‘for’ or ‘to do’; ready and willing: ‘are you game for a swim?’ 2. plucky and unyielding in spirit; resolute: ‘She put up a game fight against her detractors.’ – so doesn’t quite work!
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Ken G (Fort Collins, CO, USA) – November 20, 2002


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game leg

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Jul 20, 2004 10:49 pm

OK, let's make up a folk etymology. It's a "game leg" because people became lame from either playing games or hunting game (and being mistaken for game)?*G*

Lois, Birmingham, November 20, 2002
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Post by Archived Reply » Tue Jul 20, 2004 11:03 pm

Could there be a connection with the Italian "gamba", meaning leg? Just a thought...

Simon Beck
London, UK
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game leg

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Jul 20, 2004 11:17 pm

Simon, Your comment first brought to mind the Gambino (small leg?) mafioso crime family.

That’s a very interesting thought, though, which inspires me to check a bit further. What it looks like to me is that this ‘gamb**’ thing has French, Italian, Spanish, Lithuanian, Germanic, Latin and maybe even originally Greek (‘kampe’ bend) connections.

Also made me curious about GAMBIT which does have the Italian leg connection and the idea of tripping might be a further connection.. GAMBOL also gave further insight.
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GAMBIT noun 1. Chess. An opening move in which a player seeks to obtain(trip up) their opponent and gain some advantage by sacrificing a piece. 2. any maneuver in which one seeks to gain an advantage [1650–60; from French, which was from the Spanish ‘gambito’ or Italian ‘gambetto’ (akin to Old French ‘gambet’, ‘jambet’), equivalent to ‘gamb(a)’ leg + ‘-etta’ -et]
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GAMB or GAMBE noun: leg shank (used chiefly in heraldry) [[I don’t quite get this connection to heraldry??]] [French dialect (northern) ‘gambe’ leg, from Old North French, from Late Latin ‘gamba,’ ‘camba’ hock (of a horse), leg * more at GAMBOL
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GAMBOL noun (also verb) [Etymology: earlier ‘gambolde,’ ‘gambalde,’ modification of Middle French ‘gambade’ spring of a horse, gambol, probably from (assumed) Old Provencal ‘gambada,’ ‘cambada’ (whence Provencal ‘gambado,’ ‘cambado’), from Old Provencal ‘camba’ leg, from Late Latin ‘gamba,’ ‘camba’ hock (of a horse), leg, modification of Greek ‘kampe’ ‘bend ‘ more at CAMP
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Simon, this gets interestinger and interestinger:

CAMP noun: a place of temporary shelter [Etymology: Middle French, probably from Old North French or Old Provencal, from Latin ‘campus’ plain, field; akin to Old High German ‘hamf’ crippled, Gothic ‘hamfs’ maimed, Greek ‘kamp’ bend, turning, Lithuanian ‘kampas’ corner, region; basic meaning: bend; hence, concavity, depression]
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You know, I’m no etymologist (physics is my game). But if the ‘gamb,’ ‘gambe,’ ‘game,’ ‘camp,’ etc., ‘hamfs,’ ‘kamp’ are really related, which it sort of appears to my amateur eye that they are, we’ve got ‘crippled’ from ~ the 11th century ( Old High German) and ‘maimed’ from about the 4th century A.D. (Goths), and the Greek ‘kamp’ from even earlier, which all predate any of the proposed etymologies mentioned (in the dictionary guesses) and which would also do away with the official ‘origin unknown.’ Also, would be a much more direct connection to the ‘game’ in ‘game leg’!! But, I probably don’t know what I am talking about, and there is more to it than that – like are these equivalencies real and where did the word go in the intervening centuries?

Ken – November 22, 2002



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game leg

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Jul 20, 2004 11:32 pm

It strikes me that we might have another "polari" suspect here, with all that Mediterranean influence.

Simon
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game leg

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Jul 20, 2004 11:46 pm

I have always pronounced it /ga'mi/ (gammy). Since it doens't apply to other limbs (does it?) a 'gammy eye' ?? a 'gammy hand' it would seem to be a doubling from a general root meaning leg, and the Polari / lingua franca explanation may help. Gam is leg in theatre slang: 'move those gams' said to a chorus line.

Barry Sesnan, UK at present in Congo K
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Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jul 21, 2004 12:01 am

try this....
Game has a long and prolific history. The oldest forms are
"gamen" from Old English, "game" and "gome" of Old Frisian,
and Old High German’s "gaman", all of which generally meant
"joy, glee". From approximately the same time, Old Norse
offers "gaman", meaning "game, sport, merriment", from which came the modern Swedish "gamman" and the modern Danish
"gammen", which both mirror the Old Norse meaning (OED).
From these sources we also see the Gothic use of "gaman"
which meant "participation, communion" (OED). Since
cognates of "game" appear in all of these languages, we are
presented with two possible inferences as to its origin:
Proto-Germanic or Proto-Indoeuropean. Neither language can
provide us a direct parent word since both languages existed
before writing. However, we can still make inferences on the
origin of "game". The absence of cognate forms of "game" in
languages such as Greek, Sanskrit, and Proto-Celtic seems to
rule out the possibility that the present-day English "game"
descended directly through Proto-Indoeuropean, since all of
these languages descended from Proto-Indoeuropean as well.
Therefore, we have to assume that game has arrived in English through Proto-Germanic, where it was either originally formed or borrowed from an unknown or unidentified language.


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game leg

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jul 21, 2004 12:15 am

Does anyone know who "Simon" is the the game Simon Says. Not the 70's version or a computer game but the original with a leader saying Simon says and the children are only supposed to follow instructions if the leader says Simon says? CAE
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Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jul 21, 2004 12:29 am

So, it seems to be too hard for most people, to look for the root meaning of the word game in Italian and Latin. Why is it hard to see that "gambe=legs" would clearly show that, first of all, the game would be carried out by the children and that it involved legs more that anythinh else? Even adults would talk about the pain in the legs for several days, before they had another game, and would talk some more about the legs. How many games involve legs? 90%? 99%? Well, we could say card game does not involve legs. But, did the card game exist first, or,did countless games, invented by children and adults, exist first? In other words, common sense tells us that physical games, involving the legs must have been in existence thousands of years before there was a mental game invented, like a card game.
So, good old "Gambe" would seem to make sense? Yes?
I would love to have response from some one.
Best regards, Theodor Lebar.
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game leg

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jul 21, 2004 12:44 am

qa
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Re: game leg

Post by Dunkeld » Sun Dec 01, 2019 12:48 pm

Very interesting!

And it was looking up the origin of "game leg" that brought me here into the forum. :)
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