Enhance the English language by speaking like an Olympic curling pro


Canadian skip Brad Jacobs pushes off the hack during the gold medal match against Britain on Friday. (Tobias Hase/EPA)

Part of the reason it can take a while to understand the sport of curling is because of its lingo. Skip, end, house, hammer, hack, hog line… what the heck is going on?

“It’s an odd, complicated sport and the weakness of NBC’s Andrew Catalon and John Benton comes in failing to make novices feel informed and involved,” Associated Press television writer David Bauder said after the Canadian men took home the gold on Friday.

It’s true: To the uninitiated, curling commentators might as well be speaking Klingon. And while there’s no Rosetta Stone for Curling-ese, there is a way to learn curling vocab by thinking about the words in a different context — and maybe inventing some new American slang at the same time. Here are 10 examples:

End: Similar to an inning in baseball, ends divide the game up into rounds. One end is comprised of 16 stone throws, eight for each team.

Start referring to arguments as ends and treat them accordingly: Limit each side to trading eight insults apiece.

Hammer: The last stone thrown during an end.

When in an end with your significant other, for example, you might want to let them have the hammer.

Skip: The captain of a curling team.

Why not refer to every boss as skip? It’s certainly got a ring to it.

Hack: The rubber piece you push off from when throwing a stone.

“Hack” has about a dozen definitions already in English, so what’s one more? Let’s start using it as a way to refer to any starting off point. “On your hacks, get set, go!”

Hog line: The thick black line located 33 feet from the hack. When throwing a stone, this is the line by which you must release your stone otherwise it will be out of play.

You know that proverbial line you never want to cross? Well, it’s got a name now, so next time someone gets a little out of hand, just warn, “Be careful. You’re getting dangerously close to committing a hog line violation.”

House: The three-ring target at either end of the ice.

Next time someone screams out, “Take it to the house!” during a basketball or football game, kindly chime in, “I think you’re talking about curling.”

Button: The center circle of the house, and where you want your stones to be nearest to when an end concludes.

You know the cliche “on the button?” Well, it probably didn’t originate with curling, but it should have.

Burned stone: A stone that is removed from play after being touched by either a player or equipment while in motion.

What a fitting metaphor to describe any feat of human failure, from a cinematic flop at the box office to a floundering politician. The only difference: Burned stones are rare in Olympic-level curling.

A picked rock: A curling stone that’s interfered with by debris on the ice, resulting in the stone going off course.

Getting a rock picked in curling is just plain bad luck. There’s nothing you can do about it, so next time something unexpected thwarts your plans, refer to it as a pick. E.g.: “That storm really picked our picnic.”

On the broom: A rock thrown accurately to the spot intended.

Opposite of a pick, this phrase can be used to mean everything has gone according to plan. Hopefully this article was on the broom and you speak Curling-ese like a pro now.

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Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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