Monday, June 20, 2011
To the uninitiated, golf seems to hold all the charm and promise of a march into the heart of mother Russian in late fall. To players of the game, feelings regarding the game can range from the simple pleasure of enjoying a sunburn and a warm beer with the fellows to an existential confrontation with one's own inadequacies both inner and outer. Either way, the history of golf and the etymology of golf itself both betray the simple truth that the alleged sport attracts no middle ground: you either play it with pleasure or regard it the disdain of a malinformed homophobe.
The most commonly quoted etymology of golf both wrong and one of those false word histories that leaves a bad taste in the brain, or whatever the equivalent for taste in a brain would be. Golf haters in particular love to give brief, indignant and unsolicited lectures on the history of the word golf that claim it to be an acronym standing for:
Golf, of course, has a bit of a boy's club reputation, much like, say, poker, fishing, first-person shooters, primal screaming, the Stonecutters and any other of a long list of strategies that men have devised over the years to escape hearth, home and hag. The implied notion, however, that the golf green is the very sanctum of a Skull and Crossbones like plot over woman and sissy kind would instantly implode if any of conspiracy theorist were to listen in surreptitiously on the discourse that takes place between each man's stroke. At best, discussions range from genitalia to certain movements. At worst, it's commiseration over the pleasantries of family and property at its very lowest.
In any rate, this false etymology of golf is what is known as a backronym, an acronym ascribed to a term long after its origin, much like similar false claim that the term news was designed as an acronym representing North East West South. All lies and slander.
Instead, the etymology of golf dates back to the land and times of its origins amongst the wise, sober and clean shaven Scots. A similar word goulf was in use at the time to describe the striking and cuffing of any number of things, possibly derived from a Dutch kolf, which described bats, clubs and the like, so sayeth Wikipedia.