Round robin
Posted: 04 March 2014 09:13 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Before today, the only sense of “round robin” that I was familiar with was “a competition in which each member plays each other” and some related senses. (This would be the OED’s 10a)

Wondering why “robin” got messed up in this, I looked it up in the OED. Turns out this expression has a number of different meanings.

Summarising from the OED:

I) A circular object
I1) A disparaging name for: the consecrated Host at the Eucharist.
I2) A type of small ruff
I3a) A rim or plate designed to prevent dirt from affecting the movement of a carriage axle
I3b) A loop of leather or rubber through which passes a pole, spring, or other part of a carriage and by which it is suspended
I4) A small pancake

II) A person, fish, or plant.
II5) Chiefly depreciative. Applied to a man (in various allusive uses)
II6a) A freshwater sunfish of eastern North America, either the pumpkinseed, Lepomis gibbosus, or the redbreast sunfish, L. auritus
II6b) Any of various marine fishes of the genus Decapterus (family Carangidae), characterized by a fusiform body almost circular in cross-section; esp. the round scad, D. punctatus, of Atlantic coastal waters, widely fished for food and as bait. Also called cigar-fish.
II6c)The anglerfish Lophius piscatorius
II7) Any of several hedgerow plants with pink flowers, esp. the red campion, Silene dioica.

III) Other uses.
III8) A document (esp. one embodying a complaint, remonstrance, or request) having the names of the signatories arranged in a circle so as to disguise the order in which they have signed.
III9a) A letter copied and sent to several recipients.
III9b) A letter, piece of writing, etc., sent around the members of a group, and added to by each recipient in turn.
III10a) A tournament in which every player or team competes once with each of the others
III10b) A group activity consisting of successive participation from each member of the group.
III11) A wager consisting of three selections in different events, which are combined in various ways to produce ten individual bets (three doubles and a treble, and three pairs of ‘up-and-down’ bets).

Crikey.

It’s not clear to me why round robin got such generous treatment.

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Posted: 04 March 2014 09:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Crikey indeed. I had no idea it was such a versatile phrase.

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Posted: 04 March 2014 09:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Fascinating, I too thought of only one meaning: A round-robin competition.

Thanks, very interesting.

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Posted: 05 March 2014 04:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Here goes one more crikey!!!

But where did the small, grossly overfed bird disappear to?

And it’s still not clear to me why the round robin we were all familiar with is called a “round robin”, and not (e.g.) a “round turkey”, say.

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Posted: 05 March 2014 05:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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And it’s still not clear to me why the round robin we were all familiar with is called a “round robin”, and not (e.g.) a “round turkey”, say.

Well, the phrase pre-dates the large-scale rearing of turkeys in Britain! And when it was first coined, Robin wasn’t even the name of the bird but a man’s name used allusively, in the same ways as Jack. The redbreast was baptised Robin in the same way that the daw was named Jack and the pie was named Mag (Margaret).

I suspect though that the phrase stuck because the European robin is almost spherical, much more so than the American robin; especially in winter when it puffs up its feathers for warmth it looks like a ball of fluff. And, of course, unlike other small round British birds such as the wren it alliterates with round.

I’ve only ever been familiar with senses III8a (18th-century sailors writing petitions or complaints routinely signed them in this way so no signatory would appear to be thr ringleader - I have seen original examples ) and III9a, usually in the context of Christmas cards.

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Posted: 05 March 2014 07:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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all is now much clearer. Thanks, Syntinen Laulu.

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Posted: 06 March 2014 07:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I posted about this at LH; as I said there, the OED etymology basically throws up its hands:

The senses at branch I. all denote things which are circular, and those at branch II. are connected with simplex uses of robin n.1, while the senses at branch III. denote something which goes round or around. However, in no case is it entirely clear what determined the collocation of the words round adj. and robin n.1, except for alliteration. It is probable that the phrase became well established in one or more uses (perhaps originally sense 1, if the chronology implied by the attestations is correct), and then became extended to other things which were round, or went around, or were similar to things otherwise referred to as robin n.1 However, what the original motivation may have been remains uncertain.

In other words, “What can we tell you? People like to say it because it sounds good.”

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Posted: 06 March 2014 07:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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In other words, “What can we tell you? People like to say it because it sounds good.”

As many have observed, language is music.

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Posted: 06 March 2014 08:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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In other words, “What can we tell you? People like to say it because it sounds good.”

As many have observed, language is music.

Well said, lh and happydog. Especially folk-language.

Compare will-o’-the-wisp with spontaneous ignition of marsh gas mixtures

;-)

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Posted: 06 March 2014 02:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Thanks LH and all

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