What's in a Word | All Blogs


Horsing around

By Debra Dobbins

On tap for this weekend is the Lions’ Club parade at 1 p.m. Saturday, followed by its carnival starting at 5 p.m. at Two Rivers Convention Center. There’s sure to be hijinks, hilarity and/or horseplay at both events. After all, the Lions’ motto is “Doing the most good, for the most people, while having the most fun."

Speaking of horseplay, the word has been around for centuries. It came into English in the 1580s, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.

In his book, Red Herrings and White Elephants, Albert Jack sheds more light on the word’s history. “To indulge in horseplay is to behave in a boisterous but friendly manner,” he writes. “The origin of this saying lies with the English Morris dancers. At country fairs players riding wooden hobbyhorses usually accompanied Morris dancers. These ‘horses’ were expected to engage in wild and uncontrollable antics to entertain the crowds ... and the ‘horseplay’ became a popular and important part of the Morris dancers’ act.”

Morris dancers along the Thames near Richmond, c. 1620.
Detail of The Thames at Richmond, with the Old Royal Palace by an unknown artist
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Caption and photo courtesy of Wikipedia*

* This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art.
The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason:
This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

 


 

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