0

What's the etymology of the phrase dead rubber? Googling, I see references to diverse sports as well as a reference in attributes it to some obscure bridge reference. I do not understand it.

Edited to add definition from top answer supplied by @Josh61 below:

Dead rubber is a term used in sporting parlance to describe a match in a series where the series result has already been decided by earlier matches. The dead rubber match therefore has no effect on the winner and loser of the series, other than the number of matches won and lost.

4
  • 3
    Although you have a good answer, please take care to write a good question. In particular, questions should include where/how the phrase was used, and exactly what research you did and what the results were. – Andrew Leach Nov 24 '14 at 8:31
  • 1
    I'm confused as to why you have edited your question to incorporate part of the answer given by Josh61. – Erik Kowal Nov 24 '14 at 9:13
  • Just adding where/how the phrase is used from Wikipedia, just like Josh did below. – Yaitzme Nov 24 '14 at 11:56
  • Yes, but that's the role of the person answering the question. You posed the question: it is other people's job to supply answers, and it is your job to vote for as many as you have an opinion on, and/or to accept the best one if you think it is particularly good. – Erik Kowal Nov 26 '14 at 6:27
3

Its origin is actually from the card game 'rubber bridge' where in a three-competition game one team wins once it scores 100 points or more. If that is done before completing the three competitions, the remaining one is said to be dead rubber.

Dead rubber:

  • is a term used in sporting parlance to describe a match in a series where the series result has already been decided by earlier matches. The dead rubber match therefore has no effect on the winner and loser of the series, other than the number of matches won and lost. The term is widely used in Davis Cup and Fed Cup tennis, as well as in international cricket and field hockey series.

  • Its origin is however probably from the card games, rubber bridge. For example, in Davis Cup series', each pair of competing countries play five matches (rubbers) where the winner is decided on a best-of-five basis. Where the result is known before the completion of the five matches (if one side wins three matches), the remaining match or matches are said to be dead-rubbers.

    • Rubber bridge is a form of contract bridge, played by two competing teams of two players each. A rubber is a best-of-three competition which is completed when one team is first to win two games. A team wins a game when it is first to score 100 or more contract points; a new game ensues until one team has won two games to conclude the rubber. (from Wikipedia)

Rubber: (from Etymonline)

  • Sense of "deciding match" in a game or contest is 1590s, of unknown signification, and perhaps an entirely separate word.
4
  • 1
    I think the reference to bridge is incorrect. Bridge doesn't have any sense of a "dead rubber"; not only do you never play the third game of a rubber if the first two were won by the same team, but the team that wins the two games may not win the match as you can score significant points from penalties above the line. Further, "Rubber" in bridge is more-or-less the lowest competition level; you would not play less than a rubber at one time if keeping score at all (assuming you are playing rubber bridge). – Joe Nov 24 '14 at 19:29
  • 1
    Rubber appears to have well predated bridge (which is a 19th century invention); for example, in this ehow article it references this Alan Truscott article which suggests the phrase came from Sir Francis Drake in 1588 (in regards to Lawn Bowls), and migrated through Whist to Bridge over the years. – Joe Nov 24 '14 at 19:33
  • Josh61, I see your first paragraph is quoted from wikipedia's Dead rubber article, as is much of the second paragraph. I have downvoted your answer because it looks like you interpolated “Its origin is however probably from the card games, rubber bridge”, a sentence not in the wikipedia article, into the text. Of course if you sourced from a source that sourced from wikipedia, the interpolation might be someone else's doing. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Nov 24 '14 at 20:35
  • 1
    @jwpat7: wikipedia changes. This was indeed in the wikipedia article at one point in time (you can check the edit history in wikipedia). This was probably sourced from a source that sourced from wikipedia some time ago. – Peter Shor Nov 26 '14 at 4:13

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.