Bowl.

Fans of American football (and, really, all Americans, because you can’t escape football in the news even if you don’t care about it) are familiar with the use of the word “bowl” in stadium names, the most famous being the Rose Bowl. It makes sense, because such stadiums are shaped more or less like bowls, but it’s not so obvious as to need no explanation; it turns out, as we learn from Mark Alden Branch’s piece in the latest Yale Alumni Magazine, that the nomenclature began a century ago, at Yale:

Next time you sit down to watch the Super Bowl—or any of dozens of other postseason football games—think of Noah Haynes Swayne 2d, Class of 1893. Although Swayne’s life work was in the coal, pig iron, and coke business, he ought to be better known for something he did as a member of the Committee of 21, the Yale alumni group that oversaw the construction of a new football stadium for the Bulldogs in the early 1910s.

According to accounts of the time, it was Swayne who suggested that because of the new edifice’s shape, it should not be called a “stadium” or a “coliseum” but simply the Yale Bowl. It was the first use of the word “bowl” to describe a stadium. Then, when the city of Pasadena borrowed the word for its new Rose Bowl stadium in 1923, their annual postseason football game also took the name, and a bowl became not just a place but also an event.

Comments

  1. Actually it makes no sense at all to this unAmerican: the prototypical bowl for me is the Superbowl, and even the most casual unAmerican observer knows this to be a (geographically) moveable feast. So I never connected it with the shape of stadiums at all, even in the case of the Delicately Lemon-Scented Fingerbowl and other such things that are part of the college football scene. (I know nothing about college football which I have always considered to be plenty, all things considered.)

  2. I always thought “bowl” was a kind of special prize won at these competitions like Stanley Cup or World Cup. It somehow never occurred to me that whilst the Cup has a noble pedigree tracing back to the Grail (and maybe further to protoplasmal primordial atomic globule), naming your prize the Bowl would be gigglishly ridiculous. Maybe still is. Uh, the intellectual inertia.

  3. Stefan Holm says:

    In Sw. a crowded sport’s stadium is sometimes called a kokande gryta, ‘boiling pot’. That’s the closest we get to a bowl.

  4. naming your prize the Bowl would be gigglishly ridiculous.

    Why ? Even plates are coveted.

  5. “Actually it makes no sense at all to this unAmerican”

    Un-American or non-American? Un-American, at least to me, has the meaning, or connotation, of being anti-American or even traitorous. As an example, many (maybe all) of those targeted by the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee were American citizens.

    Sorry for the digression.

  6. Un-American or non-American?

    Apropos of nothing, does anyone have a Fifth Amendment I could borrow?

  7. My understanding is that furriners can invoke the 5th element, but not the 5th amendment.

  8. Sorry, I meant Aliens, not Furriners.

  9. Chaplin wasn’t an American.

    “Traitorous” sounds awfully pompous to me as well as wrong in the context. But I could be mistaken. What’s the difference between treacherous and “traitorous”?

    – And for your info, W, Des knows quite well what he’s doing. He’s far too modest to mention it, but he could run rings around most people here with puns and plays on words as well as his knowledge of IT, several European languages and linguistics. And SF and sports. And Swedish royalty.

  10. And Dutch.

  11. And comics and astronomy and Belgium.

  12. And Erlang.

  13. “Apropos of nothing, does anyone have a Fifth Amendment I could borrow?”

    Sorry, I did not intend the comment to be personal or challenge your views. Your view of the U.S. is none of my business.

    It was intended as a comment on language. I suspect that many non-Americans would not understand the meaning, or connotation of ‘un-American’ the way Americans would (or, at least, Americans of my generation).

    As I think about it a little more (emphasis on little), I think the term is only applied to American citizens.

  14. What’s the difference between treacherous and “traitorous”?

    That reminds me, does a trattoria have anything to do with traitors ?

  15. It was intended as a comment on language.

    And taken as such by me, but as AJP says, des was being playful, not ignorant.

  16. As I think about it a little more (emphasis on little), I think the term is only applied to American citizens.

    The trumped-up ground for HUAC investigating Chaplin was that he wasn’t a US citizen and had no interest in becoming one. And as any fule kno, he was subsequently denied reentry to the United States.

  17. This use of bowl isn’t customary in Ireland (we tend to use stadium), with one notable exception: the proposed “Bertie Bowl”, named after former Taoiseach (prime minister) Bertie Ahern. I don’t know if anything other than alliterative catchiness motivated the choice.

  18. @AJP Crown: “Traitorous” sounds fine to me there. The word “treacherous” has much broader application, meaning having any tendency to betray, and it can be applied to just about any kind of interpersonal relationship. Even inanimate things can be “treacherous”; “treacherous terrain” provides the kind of footing that might cut out from under you as soon as you put your foot down in a safe-looking spot. “Traitorous” is narrower, often restricted to treason or similar crime. However, in the context of alleged disloyalty to one’s country—such as “un-American” behavior investigated by the likes of Nixon and McCarthy—“traitorous” sounds perfectly reasonable. “Treasonous” might also work, but some readers and writers of a more legal inclination might want to restrict the use of that term to descriptions of behavior that meet a legal definition of treason.

    (Obviously, the preceding discussion is purely linguistic. None of it is meant to imply that any individual harassed during the second Red Scare was actually guilty of objectively “traitorous,” “treasonous,” “treacherous,”—or even merely distasteful—activities.)

  19. Stu Clayton (5:00 am). Yes, prize plates are given out sometimes, but rarely. I guess, if you have some middle school soccer or hockey competition, a bowl as a prize would be appropriately humorous and self-effacing.

  20. @D.O.: I remember that at MIT, there were two awards given to the top male and female intercollegiate scholar athletes every year. The men were given the “Malcolm Cotton Brown Award*,” and the award presenter always went on extensively about the history of the award and its importance. The award for female athletes, for which the formal citation was essentially identical, was the “Pewter Bowl Award,” and it was typically awarded without comment. The sexism was striking.

    *I remember the name of the men’s award, because a fraternity brownstone that was also named after the late alumnus Malcolm Cotton Brown was involved in a major scandal—the fatal alcohol poisoning of a pledge.

  21. For me “un-American” can be used to jocularly describe activities that are almost, but not quite traitorous, like watching soccer or ordering salad at a steakhouse.

  22. denied reentry

    Not quite. Chaplin decided not to return to the United States after his residency permit had been revoked by the Attorney General, who had announced that he would have to submit to being questioned about his political beliefs and morals in order to return (entirely in accordance with the law). He decided that that was an imposition up with which he would not put.

    In fact, the U.S. had no evidence against him, according to declassified records, and he probably would have been re-admitted if he had chosen to force the point.

    It probably didn’t help that when his soon to be ex-wife charged him with sexual cruelty (to wit, cunnilingus), he replied that all married people do that. Which made him a libertine as well as a dangerous progressive.

  23. J. W. Brewer says:

    I see from wikipedia that the Rose Bowl opened the same year as the Hollywood Bowl, which by contrast is used for musical performances rather than football, but further confirms the “certain style of ampitheater-like structure” sense.

    Obviously the outer boundaries of HUAC’s jurisdiction (or its perhaps self-aggrandizing view of its own jurisdiction) are not to be determined solely from the ordinary semantics of “un-American,” but to the extent that the non-citizens it was interested in were residing in the U.S. or wished to, it’s not that odd conceptually, in that it’s fairly standard for the laws (and not just in the U.S.) to expect some measure of loyalty/allegiance from resident aliens as a condition of their residence in the country. Non-citizen resident aliens can in principal be prosecuted for treason under both U.S. and English law, although I don’t know that it has happened very often historically. When there was still military conscription in the U.S., some categories of non-citizen (male) resident aliens were liable to be drafted into the army both in theory and in practice.

  24. J. W. Brewer says:

    Referring pretentiously or poetically to a fancy drinking-vessel (of the sort that might be given out as an award for winning some sports contest when not being passed around the table at a festive drinking bout) as a “bowl” is not obviously less cromulent than referring to it as a “cup” or “chalice” or what have you. And the old-fashioned sort of vessel that well-bred Victorian gentlemen were taught the ancient Greeks etc. had used for their drinking bouts (making it particularly appropriate for learned reference in middlebrow verse) was often quite bowl-like in proportion. http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/464114 is a nice more barbarian (Avar) one, in silver rather than pottery, previously owned by J.P. Morgan.

  25. Stefan Holm says:

    un-American

    Whether it’s a sign of submissiveness or not I don’t know but in my country calling somebody osvensk, ‘un-Swedish’, is a compliment. It implies that the person is ‘urbane’, ‘international’, ‘cosmopolitan’ as opposed to ‘limited’, ‘redneck’, ‘narrow-minded’.

    But of course ‘patriotism’ has very little significance to a nation that this very year celebrates 200 years of not having been involved in a war. To the disappointment of parts of our elite even the eternally predicted massive Russian invasion of our fatherland is still out of sight.

  26. des von bladet says:

    Actually I don’t know much as I should about astronomy, but I am impeccably osvensk.

  27. Stefan Holm says:

    Is there anything, des, that you are not o-?

  28. des von bladet says:

    I’m getting fatter in middle age but i’m not quite ofantlig yet, and I haven’t been ogift for years.

  29. I haven’t been ogift for years

    My first guess was ‘non-poisonous’, but I see it means ‘unmarried’.

  30. Stefan Holm says:

    ofantlig

    Wow, des, you are more familiar to Swedish than I believe most Swedes are. This word is a real mystery. The oldest attested form is ofannogher meaning ‘rough’, ‘simple’, ‘lethargic’ or ‘clumsy’. That’s the first part of the story. The second is, that it could be a cognate to ‘find’, i.e. meaning an ‘unfound one’. The third is that influence from Low German suffix in ‘offentlich’, eigentlich’, ‘ordentlich’ etc. finally turned it into ofantlig, which today means immense or monster

  31. I see it means ‘unmarried’

    Gift & gift is a tremendous source of 1950s-type humour and confusion for anyone learning both German & a Scandinavian language.

  32. ex-wife charged him with sexual cruelty (to wit, cunnilingus)

    What? She didn’t enjoy the experience? How the times change! Nowadays I imagine he would be more likely to be charged with sexual cruelty if he refused to perform aforementioned act.

  33. David Marjanović says:

    That reminds me, does a trattoria have anything to do with traitors ?

    I put my money on tract-, not tradit-,* for that one; maybe it treats you to a good meal, or perhaps it cures your hunger.

    * As in traduttore, traditore.

  34. David Marjanović says:

    Gift & gift is a tremendous source of 1950s-type humour and confusion for anyone learning both German & a Scandinavian language.

    Also, Mitgift still means “dowry”, but of course that’s not a common word anymore.

  35. She didn’t enjoy the experience?

    She probably found the whole idea degrading. Turn up your toes and think of England (or wherever).

    I put my money on tract-, not tradit-,* for that one; maybe it treats you to a good meal, or perhaps it cures your hunger.

    Quite right: trattare < tractare is ‘to treat’, and trattore is a host.

    traduttore, traditore

    Douglas Hofstadter says “translator, traitor” is far too snappy and excellent a translation for this particular maxim, and proposes “transductor, treasoner” as a more appropriate alternative.

  36. David Marjanović says:

    England (or wherever)

    Neatly avoided in the German version: Lieg still und denk ans Vaterland.

  37. Wow, des, you are more familiar to Swedish than I believe most Swedes are.

    Either that or I shamelessly ransacked my Routledge Swedish dictionary (née “Nordstedts ordbok”). We may never know for sure…

  38. Stefan Holm says:

    Both gift (married) and gift (poison) are derivatives of ‘give’. In the first case it’s of course from the good old days of patriarchy, when the bride (and the groom?) was ‘given’ by her father (maybe a good custom since we those days had no divorces). 🙂 But even gift as poison originally had the meaning of something ‘given’ into your body.

  39. Both gift (married) and gift (poison) are derivatives of ‘give’.

    This is one time that Modern English is the conservative one, at least semantically. Whether gift was borrowed directly from Old Norse, or was re-created in English from the borrowed verb give, cannot be determined: the lost native gift (which would have given *yift in ModE) is recorded only in the sense ‘bride-price’ (and, in the plural, ‘wedding’).

  40. Ranemoraken says:

    You can tell when a conversation is off-topic when someone uses “cromulent” in an argument. I laughed.

  41. La Horde Listener says:

    Treachery and treason both involve someone turning against people or principles s/he is assumed to like and help. Treachery becomes treason when the harmful intentions and consequences impact a collective like a country or institution, not batty old neighbor Mrs. Nickerson whose lawnmower gets rigged to explode by the guy who mows the lawn for free, or when a child tricks two companions into slipping on banana peels.

  42. And the old-fashioned sort of vessel that well-bred Victorian gentlemen were taught the ancient Greeks etc. had used for their drinking bouts (making it particularly appropriate for learned reference in middlebrow verse) was often quite bowl-like in proportion.

    So the big US football competition could equally well (or, I would say, rather better) have been the Super Crater?

  43. denk ans Vaterland

    I realize belatedly that the parallelism with think of England is only superficial; the English version means ‘remember being in England, where such things didn’t happen or didn’t happen openly, as opposed to a colony where “there ain’t no Ten Commandments” ‘, whereas the German version alludes to Germany’s alleged requirement for increased population.

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