Week of February 14, 2021

This One’s On Your Head


When one player scores three goals in a single hockey game, it is called a “hat trick.” However, this term actually originated in a 1858 cricket match in England, when bowler H.H. Stephenson hit all 3 wooden stakes behind the batter 3 times in a row, that is, he bowled three consecutive wickets. Money was collected to recognize his impressive feat and used to buy him a hat.


But can’t you hang a hat just about anywhere? Yes, which is why the saying “home is where you hang your hat” refers to wherever you happen to live as opposed to a place you may have a sentimental connection to.


Boxing wasn’t always two predetermined fighters facing off in a square ring. It used to be an actual circular ring with spectators all around who could themselves become the fighters. Someone would “throw their hat in the ring” to announce their interest, and the referee would look for a second hat, if needed, to recognize a challenger.


Once all competitors were ready, races and fights had to start on a clear, fast signal. Before starting guns, this was often an official dropping a hat or swiftly swinging one downward. Hence, something done or decided quickly is said to be done “at the drop of a hat.”


Tipping your hat to someone, which may include merely touching it or removing it is a sign of nonverbal acknowledgment or respect. It is most often done by men and is likely related to military saluting (see this website’s post of 10/18/2020). However, where there was a difference of status between the tippers, one may only need to touch his hat while another had to remove it, similar to the depth of a bow in bowing cultures.


This status-indicating hat etiquette described above also explains why a humble person might appear “hat in hand,” acknowledging their subordinate position.


Though the first magician or “conjurer” to pull a rabbit out of a hat could have been either Louis Conte or John Henry Anderson, this classic magic trick has been around since the early 19th century.