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Why do we say “round” when we mean “spin”?

A round used to be referred to as a “spin”. Until the 1990s, you’d see the word “round” in newspaper sports stories, such as “Venus completes first round”. This is a translation of the English word ’round’. It means the first game of a match. Rotation is a Japanese kanji word. It’s a kanji that doesn’t appear in the records of the Joseon Dynasty, so it’s believed to be a post-Japanese occupation word.

The Meiji Restoration brought Western culture and ideas to Japan, and sports terms were translated into Japanese kanji to make them easier to understand. The translation of round as “rotation” with “return” and “fight” as “battle” is likely due to Japan’s victories in the Sino-Japanese War in 1894 and the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, which encouraged patriotism in sports. Through poetry, military songs, and literary works such as “The Mother of Sailors,” the nation’s loyalty was instilled in the flesh and bones of its citizens. Sports were no exception to this rule. Originally, the English word “round” had no war or military connotations, but these concepts seeped into the Japanese language.

According to English dictionaries, round, which originally meant round, first appeared in official documents between 1250 and 1300. It came to English from Latin “rotundus” and Old French “ront”. According to the American Paul Dixon Dictionary of Baseball Terms, the word round began to be used in baseball to mean an inning in 1859, during the early days of American baseball. The word was borrowed from boxing, the dictionary explains. (See “Why Do We Say ‘Round’?” in this Corner #775.)

In tournaments, “round” is used to안전놀이터 refer to the number of spins or rounds in a competition. The quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals are called quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals, respectively, but you can also add round to them and call them quarterfinal round, semifinal round, and final round. It’s also not uncommon to refer to quarterfinals as a “round of eight” and round of 16 as a “round of sixteen.” Round is also used for non-tournament matches. (See “Why do we say ‘tournament’?”, #338.)

In Korea, we can see that round was used in its original pronunciation as early as the 1920s. In the Chosun Ilbo article ‘Various Decisions on the Debut Cup’ dated March 14, 1925, it was announced that ‘The American Table Tennis Association will hold its annual general meeting in Yuyuk, and the dates of this year’s Debut Cup, Challenges, and Leagues will be held on the court of the Jamandown Cricket Club in the entertainment department for three days from September 10. Also, in the announcement made on the twenty-fifth day of January, it was reported that the sixth-ranked player of the United States Table Tennis Association (USTA), Watthorne Watsupan, had been removed by the committee from the sixth-ranked position to the eighth-ranked position, with a slight change in ranking.” The word “round” was used in the name of the tournament, Davis Cup Challenge Round, and it was reported in Korean.

However, the Korean media used the word rotation more than round. This is because sports fans in their 40s and older are more familiar with the word rotation, such as ‘first round’ and ‘second round’. Since the 2000s, the word “round” has been preferred over “rotation,” but the media still uses expressions such as “first round,” “second round,” and so on. People create words, but words also influence human society and consciousness. It may be for this reason that Koreans translate the English word “round” into Japanese kanji for “rotation” and thus have a concept of war that does not exist in the original language.

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