In this year’s Australian Open, Andy Murray was described by commentators as bageling his semi-final opponent, before being bageled himself in the final. This is not a new way of abusing your opponents by hurling bread at them. Rather, it is the more sporting – though no less humiliating – action of defeating them 6-0 in a set. The expression comes from the shape of the traditional Jewish bread roll (from a German dialect word for a ring or bracelet), as it resembles a zero. The verb sense has not yet reached the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), but it is recorded there as a noun as early as 1974. Tennis has a tradition of playing with numbers, with its unconventional scoring system featuring the word love instead of zero. Some have argued this is an anglicisation of the French l’oeuf (‘the egg’) – again after the shape of “0”. The OED doubts this, preferring a possible derivation from the phrase for love (‘for pleasure rather than money’). Eggs represent zeros elsewhere in sport, with the duck in cricket is apparently short for duck’s egg. If we combine these metaphors, bageling victims can at least be assured of a good breakfast.
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