Origin A commonly used meaning of to second-guess is to criticize the actions of others, after the event. The event in questions was, and often still is, a sporting event. The term is derived as what is known as a back-formation New words are usually created from existing words. For example, we all know what fishing means and, armed with that knowledge we could easily coin the word fisherman and a phrase like fishing for compliments. Sometimes though, the order that words and phrases are derived in isn't so obvious. For example, people who rob from houses have been called burglars since the 13th century and it might be supposed that they got their name from being engaged in burglary. However, it wasn't until the 19th century that the legal profession decided that that thing that burglars do needed to be given a name and hence burglary was coined as a back-formation from burglar. Likewise, narration and scavenge, which were coined centuries after narrator and scavenger.
The same back route was taken by the phrase second-guess. The umpire in a baseball game used to be called, rather unkindly, the guesser. People who were continually telling the guesser, the manager or the players what they were doing wrong were known as second guessers and were so defined in theSporting News Record Book, 1937: Second guesser, one who is continually criticizing moves of players and manager. Another meaning of to second-guess is to anticipate what others might do in a particular situation. This is also of American origin, but, somewhat more impressively, refers to a guess made before rather than after the event. An early example of its use comes fromBroadcastingmagazine, December 1941: Do not try to second-guess or master-mind our military officials. Leave this for established military analysts and experts, who are experienced enough to await the facts before drawing conclusions.
In our obsession with first place and first only, weve also dotted our daily language with second childhood, second fiddle, second rate. Poor second, a poor second.
ONLINE DEPARTMENT The 24 Laws of Golf - Senior Games Version. (Thanks, J. A.) LAW 1: No matter how bad your last shot was, you should have inner peace knowing that a worse one is yet to come. This law does not expire on the 18th hole, since it has the supernatural tendency to extend over the course of a tournament, a summer and, eventually, a lifetime. LAW 2: Your best round of golf will be followed almost immediately by your worst round ever. The probability of the latter increases with the number of people you tell about the former. LAW 3: Brand newgolf balls are water-magnetic. Though this cannot be proved in the laboratory, it is a known fact that the more expensive the golf ball, the greater its attraction to water. Expensive clubs have been known to be partly made with this most unusual natural alloy. LAW 4: Golf balls never bounce off trees back into play. If one does, the tree is breaking a law of the universe and should be blown up and burnt to the ground. LAW 5: The higher a golfer's handicap, the more qualified he deems himself as an instructor. LAW 6: A golfer hitting into your group will always be bigger than anyone in your group. Likewise, a group you accidentally hit into will consist of a football player, a professional wrestler, a convicted murderer and an IRS agent -- or some similar combination. LAW 7: All 3-woods are demon-possessed. Your mother-in-law does not come close. LAW 8: Golf balls from the same "sleeve" tend to follow one another, particularly out of bounds or into the water. See LAW 3. LAW 9: The last three holes of a round will automatically adjust your score to what it really should be. LAW 10: Golf should be given up at least twice per month. LAW 11: All vows taken on a golf course shall be valid only until sunset. LAW 12: Since bad shots come in groups of three, your fourth consecutive bad shot is really the beginning of the next group of three. LAW 13: If it isn't broke, try changing your grip. LAW 14: It's surprisingly easy to hole a 50-foot putt when you're lying. 8. LAW 15: Counting on your opponent to inform you when he breaks a rule is like expecting him to make fun of his own haircut. LAW 16: Nonchalant putts count the same as chalant putts. LAW 17: It's not a gimme if you're still 4 feet away. LAW 18: The shortest distance between any two points on a golf course is a straight line that passes directly through the center of a very large tree. LAW 19: You can hit a 2-acre fairway 10% of the time, and a 2-inch branch 90% of the time. LAW 20: Every Time a golfer makes a birdie, he must subsequently make a double or triple bogey to restore the fundamental equilibrium of the universe. LAW 21: If you want to hit a 7-iron as far as Tiger Woods does, simply try to use it to lay up just short of a water hazard. LAW 22: There are two things you can learn by stopping your back swing at the top and checking the position of your hands: how many hands you have, and which one is wearing the glove. LAW 23: A ball you can see in the rough from 50 yards away is not yours. LAW 24:Don't buy a putter until you've had a chance to throw it.
BW (Bigtime Word) bibliopole a bookseller who deals in SECONDhand and rare books. These people often have a somewhat musty odor to them.
by Anne Dowell