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“wicket” and the OED
Posted: 14 January 2008 01:49 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I have convenient access to the first edition only of the OED.  Could someone more current look up the entry for “wicket”?

I ask because there is a sense of the word completely missing from the first edition.  “Wicket”, or sometimes “wicket ball”, is the name of an obslete game closely related to cricket.  Cricket was standardized in the late 18th century, but non-standard forms didn’t disappear right away.  “Wicket” was one such form.  A superficial description of the game sounds very similar to cricket, until one learns that the wicket in wicket was a bar some five or feet long, balanced on two triangles of wood just a couple of inches high.  Wicket was played in the U.S., particularly New England, well into the 1850s.  It died off pretty quickly thereafter, presumably due to competition from New York-style baseball which was spreading at the same time.  You see occasional games for a couple of decades, but they have an old-time air to them whereas in the 1850s neighboring towns’ wicket teams were fiercely competitive.

Is this sense in the newer OED?  If not, whose ear should I put a bug in?

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Posted: 14 January 2008 02:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It’s not in the 2nd ed (current online version of entry), either.

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Posted: 14 January 2008 03:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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What an interesting account, Richard. first I ever heard of such a game. I recall reading (I think it was in “Modern Boy”, ca. 1938) that “wicket” at one time meant a stool, which served as the wicket for cricket (am i beginning to sound like Abbott and Costello?) in those pre-standard days. I think “wicket” also means some kind of door or gate.

Good King Hilary
Said to his Chancellor
(Proud Lord Willoughby,
Lord High Chancellor)
“Run to the wicket-gate,
Quickly, quickly,
Run to the wicket-gate
And see who is knocking”.

(A.A.M.)

wish i could remember where i put my specs and hearing aid, rather than tags of poetry from 70 years ago

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Posted: 14 January 2008 05:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Regarding stools, early cricket history is, if anything, even less reliable than early baseball history.  The stook origin of the wicket is bandied about, undoubtedly assisted by the existence of a related game “stool ball”.  The idea is that the wicket evolved from an overturned stool.  I have my doubts.  “Wicket” does indeed also mean a gate, though this is quite old-fashioned, at least in American English.  Does this relate to the cricket wicket?  I suppose it could, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

If you are interested in reading more about the game of wicket, go to Google Books and pull up “Bristol, Connecticut” published 1907.  It has a lengthy section beginning p. 292 titled “That Strange Yankee Game, Wicket” by Frederick Calvin Norton.  So far as I can tell, it is a factually accurate as one can reasonably expect under the circumstances.  Be sure to read about Gus Smith, who was the town’s best bowler.  He was committed to a hospital for the insane, but they pulled him out for every big game.

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Posted: 15 January 2008 12:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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This thread has just taken me way, way back to childhood, when the boys used to play what they called wicketball against the school wall where I grew up in northern England.  But it wasn’t the wicketball you describe, it was cricket played against a wall instead of with stumps.

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Posted: 15 January 2008 07:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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That’s interesting.  Was this essentially half-field cricket, with the wall used in place of a wicket-keeper, so they didn’t have to go chasing down the ball?

In the 19th century there was a form of “single wicket cricket” somewhat like that, but officially codified.  As I recall, there were rules for it from the Marylebone Cricket Club and everything.  It was played on a half field, and with as few as two players on a side.  You can find accounts of single-wicket matches into the 20th century, but so far as I know it is no longer played.

So I’m wondering if the name “wicketball” might be derived from “single wicket cricket”.  It is hard to see how it could be directly related to the “wicket ball” played in 19th century New England.

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Posted: 15 January 2008 09:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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A wicket door or gate is a small door or gate let into a larger one, for example to allow pedestrians through without opening the larger gate.

You still occasionally see school walls in the UK with a three stump wicket painted on as Eliza describes. We also used to play ‘French Cricket’ where you bowl at the batsperson’s legs - usually with a tennis ball

I’ve never heard of the American game of wicket as described but my online OED lists a American usage of ‘wicket’ to mean a croquet hoop (in Little Women)

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Posted: 15 January 2008 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I have always assumed the “wicket” in cricket to be derived from the gate shepherds would have left in a temporary pen made of wicker hurdles, big enough for the sheepdog to get out through but too small for a sheep, as explained here. It is easy to imagine that this wicket would have been construicted of two uprights and a crossbar, so as to be easily portable and easily stuck into the turf, and the three-piece wicket, as the OED says, was also the form the earliest wickets in cricket took. However, this is not a lot like the wicket Richard H describes, unless American sheepdogs were limbo dancers ...

Incidentally, I get “no preview available” when I try to Google Bristol, Connecticut - would I be right in assuming that the bowling in wicket was underarm, as it was in the earliest form of cricket?

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Posted: 15 January 2008 10:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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my online OED lists a American usage of ‘wicket’ to mean a croquet hoop

Probably the most (perhaps only) familiar sense to most Americans.

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Posted: 15 January 2008 11:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Zythophile - 15 January 2008 10:36 AM

Incidentally, I get “no preview available” when I try to Google Bristol, Connecticut - would I be right in assuming that the bowling in wicket was underarm, as it was in the earliest form of cricket?

I just checked and Google Books on ‘Bristol Connecticut’ gives the book I want as the first hit.  Quotation marks seem not to matter in this instance.  It is the book from 1907, not the bicentennial history which is the second hit.

I’m pretty sure the bowling would have been underarm.

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Posted: 15 January 2008 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Dr. Techie - 15 January 2008 10:42 AM

my online OED lists a American usage of ‘wicket’ to mean a croquet hoop

Probably the most (perhaps only) familiar sense to most Americans.

Indeed.  Croquet is familiar to a broad swath of American culture, at least that portion with ready access to lawns.  It isn’t widely considered a serious game.  It is played by children and old people.  But the game is widely known.

Cricket, on the other hand, is a dark mystery to the vast majority of Americans.  I am eccentric in that I have actually seen cricket played:  indeed, more than once, and volutarily!

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Posted: 15 January 2008 02:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Cricket, on the other hand, is a dark mystery to the vast majority of Americans.

The Hollywood Cricket Club nevertheless flourished for many years, and for all I know may be flourishing yet. It had at least one international cricketer in its ranks (C. Aubrey Smith, who once captained a Test team for England). Admittedly, most of the club members seem to have been originally British.

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Posted: 15 January 2008 02:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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more than once, and volutarily!

At times on this forum, I come over all glowing and misty-eyed and forget old differences and scores to be settled.

But it never lasts.

Wicket-ball at my old school was played against stumps painted onto a wall as Flynn describes and was, as you say, essentially half-cricket, without a wicket-keeper.

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Posted: 15 January 2008 03:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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The Hollywood Cricket Club nevertheless flourished for many years, and for all I know may be flourishing yet. It had at least one international cricketer in its ranks (C. Aubrey Smith, who once captained a Test team for England). Admittedly, most of the club members seem to have been originally British.

While it is true that cricket is “a dark mystery to the vast majority of Americans,” due to the sheer size of the US it is also true that cricket clubs and leagues can be found in most metropolitan areas. But participation seems to be mainly by South Asian and Caribbean immigrants.

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Posted: 15 January 2008 03:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Dave Wilton - 15 January 2008 03:10 PM


While it is true that cricket is “a dark mystery to the vast majority of Americans,” due to the sheer size of the US it is also true that cricket clubs and leagues can be found in most metropolitan areas. But participation seems to be mainly by South Asian and Caribbean immigrants.

I’ve watched games played in a local park, here in the OC. The Southern California Cricket Association appears to have 36 active teams.

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Posted: 15 January 2008 04:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Dave Wilton - 15 January 2008 03:10 PM

While it is true that cricket is “a dark mystery to the vast majority of Americans,” due to the sheer size of the US it is also true that cricket clubs and leagues can be found in most metropolitan areas. But participation seems to be mainly by South Asian and Caribbean immigrants.

One of the densest populations of cricket clubs in the United States is Redmond, Washington.

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