Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Bullet

I have a stupid question?

Why do people say, "he scored a bullet," when somebody wins a sailing race?

Where does it come from? Does it have anything to do with the expression "bite the bullet"? Can you only say "score a bullet" or is it OK to say "did a bullet" or "got the bullet" or other variations?

Anyway my compatriots from Laser District 7 (aka New England in non-Lasering circles) were doing bullets all over the place in the Laser Masters Worlds on Monday.


Our blogging friend Marc Jacobi (I told you he was good) made a bullet in one of the Masters Standard Rig fleets and told us all about it in Second Day - Patience (and confidence) are virtues.




Meanwhile in the other Masters Standard Rig fleet, Scott Ferguson bulleted too. His blogging wife Kim tell the story in The "bullet" Boys! Kim also gives a shout-out for fellow Newport fleet member Peter Seidenberg who has been shooting bullets every day in the Great Grandmaster Radial Fleet.


Dr J didn't make any bullets on Monday but he was racing in Peter's fleet and tells us in Second Day how Peter crossed him by inches halfway up the first beat but after that things went downhill for Dr J.

After twenty years of experience racing against Peter, I have one piece of advice for Dr J. If Mr. Seidenberg is going right and you are going left then he is probably right and you are wrong. Tack before he crosses you and lead him out to the right. Good things will probably happen.

Tracy Usher didn't bullet on Monday either. He starts his post 2009 Masters' World, day two saying, "In summary: ugh!"

Dave Sliom had a "not bad" Day 2 but no bulleting, and is looking forward to using his Chesapeake experience in the forecast light and shifty stuff on Tuesday.

So enough about the hotshots at the Worlds. Let's get back to the real subject of this blog... me. I've done a few bullets you know, had my bullet moments, shot the proverbial B thingie. If you don't believe me check out Just One of Those Days and Marblehead. Oh yeah, I can be a real bulleter some days.

So how did this expression "bullet" originate? And have I been using it correctly?

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...I wonder if it has anything to do with getting the "gun" from the committee boat at the finish?

anon.

Anonymous said...

Yep. The committee boat fires off a gun, therefore the winner "took a bullet".

Tillerman said...

There's a bullet in that gun? I thought they just fired blanks.

Pat said...

Although the word derives from French, I'm guessing there's no such use for a petit boule in that language. Getting really further afield, my Shorter OED reports that "bullet" can also be slang for a poker ace. Hmmm...

Jos said...

Could be totally wrong. But as I understood it, you score a "bullet" because you get a '1' (the cypher) in the results and a '1' looks like a bullet with a pointy top and flat bottom....

Ole Eichhorn said...

I agree, "bullet" because a "1" looks like a bullet.

If you win a lot of races in a row, the scoresheet looks like an ammo belt :)

TK said...

I think it is a leftover from the old scoring system where first place received zero points. The "O" was a bullet on the score sheet, possibly a bullet hole....

And you "get the bullet." Taking a bullet sounds a lot less fun....

Tillerman said...

Hmmm. I tend to agree with the last three comments that it's something to do with how the scores look.

But is TK right? Was there ever a time when you used to get a zero if you won a race? As I recall when I first started racing you used to get a score of 3/4 (three quarters) if you won a race. Did people use the expression "score a bullet" in those days?

And yes, a 1 does looks a bit like a bullet, but a 1 also looks like a tree, a pole, a stick, a pencil... all sorts of things. Why a bullet?

Pat said...

"Getting a tree" is something that might happen if you go to far into a shallow part of the lake -- and then you definitely won't be getting a bullet!

Tillerman said...

A little bit of research using The Google discovered that "scoring a bullet" is also used in another sport, soccer. But it is usually in the context of "scored a bullet header" which I assume refers to a hard straight shot into the goal (like a bullet from a gun.)

Jos said...

With the Bonus Points system (formerly called Olympic scoring) first place gets zero points.
I'll ask around and make a post linking to yours. Perhaps one of my readers can shed some light on this...

Greg and Kris said...

I assumed when you said something about Bill Symes Day Three bullet in the Grand Masters, that it was the point thing. Like a zero is shaped like a bullet.

But, hey, what I know about sailing could fit in a shell casing for a .22.

I think that's a very small bullet.

Andrew said...

Maybe it originated outside the sailing world...

'... from Billboard Magazine's practice of putting a bullet sign in front of chart entries that have moved from one position to another with notable speed.'

Carol Anne said...

I think TK is on track here. In typography, a bullet is a symbol that looks like a dot, although sometimes it is also a hollow circle, like an O. When I worked on the sports page of a major regional newspaper, when a team or player scored a zero, it was often called a "bullet" (sportswriters are notorious for trying to find colorful synonyms rather than saying the same thing over and over). I have no trouble believing that East Coast sportswriters covering regattas started associating first-place race finishes (assuming the scoring system gave them a 0) as "bullets."

Tillerman said...

Good thinking everyone. But if bullet=zero I still wonder why this particular word was chosen. If a baseball player doesn't get any hits in a game they say he "took the collar". In cricket if you score no runs they call it a "duck". But if a bowler in cricket manages to bowl an over (6 balls) without giving up any runs they say he "bowled a maiden over".

Anonymous said...

I'm with the first post, the rest of you are way overthinking this. RC fires a gun when the first boat finishes. You 'get the gun' or since a gun usually shoots a bullet you 'get a bullet'. Doesn't matter if the gun is loaded with blanks.

bjmoose said...

You're the first across the line.

The RC fires a loud shotgun blast in the air that everyone else on the course can here.

Everyone else get a toot of the whistle or horn.

Yep, you got "the bullet" even though it's blanks.

dataentry said...

Maybe because there is a firing of the gun at the start.

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