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What’s a handegg?

NOTE: This question is primarily related to the etymology of a compound noun which is not in The Dictionary.

There is a hat this year called “Handegg”, given out for a posting that reaches a score of +7. But here’s the problem: the word handegg does not occur in the Oxford English Dictionary! Neither does hand-egg nor hand egg.

Given that absence, I would like to know:

  1. What is exact etymology and history of handegg as documented by reputable scholarly sources?

  2. What is the primary sense of handegg, and are there any auxiliary senses or attendant connotations?

  3. Is handegg a word used in only one region or sociolect, or is it a word that most native speakers of English the whole wide world around would reasonably be expected know?

  4. Is handegg an inventive substitution for some other, better-known term?

  5. If handegg has a primary sense that is not shall we say “off-color”, does the word also some sort of double entendre whereby it also means something risqué?

Although that looks like five questions, it really is only one. To be accepted, only the first question needs answering. The others are just elaborations on the first.


Background: I’m asking because I kept reading handegg as handbag, which I genuinely thought it was until only a couple minutes ago when I was disabused of this misreading, but that only brought new mysteries. In the accent of Green Bay, Wisconsin, bag and egg can seem to have the same vowel due to the bag–beg merger, so maybe this is how I misread it.

  • 31
    You worked hard on that question. +1. – Mitch Dec 17 '14 at 15:27
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    I thought handeggs were just the more expensive version of nesteggs- according to the old saying, "An egg in the hand is worth two in the nest." – Jim Dec 17 '14 at 16:12
  • 24
    This could have easily been solved with Google. – user53089 Dec 18 '14 at 0:44
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    @LegoStormtroopr Wrong: Google is not a “reputable scholarly source” as specifically requested and required by the question. Neither is Urban Dictionary. – tchrist Dec 18 '14 at 15:37
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    What great etymological question is there? Its a joke about "American Football". Except rather than kicking a ball with a foot play is done by holding an egg in the hand. Children understand this joke. – user53089 Dec 22 '14 at 3:38
166

CBS Sports has this nice article explaining the origin of the word, including a newspaper snippet from 1909:

Image of letter to newspaper

“Hand-Egg,” Not Football.

To the Editor of The New York Times:

Football is certainly a misnomer, for the game is played not with the feet but with the hands, and the ball is not a ball but an egg.

I propose that the game be played with the feet and with a ball, or else that it be called “hand-egg.”

OBSERVER.
New York, Nov. 7, 1909.

Hand-egg is the proposed word for what has been named football when describing a sport in which an egg is moved using one's hands, instead of an activity where a ball is moved with one’s feet.

  • 19
    Verified not fake: query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/… – Hugo Dec 17 '14 at 15:35
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    "Correct word" is certainly strong phrasing. I've only ever heard hand-egg used derisively, generally by people from countries where football refers to what Americans call soccer. There aren't any coaches going onto the field yelling at the quarterback to throw the hand-egg. – Chris Hayes Dec 17 '14 at 18:57
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    @ChrisHayes: "correct word" is just following the facetious tone/assumptions of the original 1909 letter. – Steve Jessop Dec 17 '14 at 19:12
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    By this notion, Soccer should be called "Flop-Writhe" since most action seems to be players faking injuries to get a penalty. – Oldcat Dec 17 '14 at 19:34
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    @Oldcat: clearly you don't understand the sport in the least. Only one of the 22 players on the field is writhing around, the others are engaged in the far more important activities of gesticulating wildly, gazing imploringly at the ref, shrugging their shoulders, offering a hand to the "injured" player to shake, etc. It's all about the combined effect on the ref, those who just flop and writhe are ignoring that it's a team game. The same principle is starting to take hold in the NFL of course, under the current PI rules. – Steve Jessop Dec 18 '14 at 1:49
93

It's a football reference.

  • The hat is a football helmet
  • The football is egg-shaped and held in your hands
  • A touchdown is worth 7 points (including the obligatory point-after-touchdown)

Urban Dictionary Wiktionary enter image description here

  • 2
    It's just the shape: the US football is not shaped like a ball, but more like an egg (i.e. elongated). And you cradle it, as if it's fragile. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 17 '14 at 15:40
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    I think it's a joke term. I've never heard it used seriously. But many of the hats are based on jokes or memes. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 17 '14 at 15:47
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    @RegDwigнt According to this article, in the NFL something like 99% of extra point attempts are successful, meaning that for all practical purposes the touchdown's value is 7 points. The hand-egg hat requires 7 votes. Other forms of the game hand-egg may or may not have different success rates for extra points, but that has no bearing on how this hat relates to football. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 17 '14 at 16:00
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    For what it's worth, the image in this answer directly inspired the hat idea and design. The trigger was indeed a reference to the seemingly arbitrary score that results from a successful touchdown + extra point kick. (Note, it's also possible to get 8 points with a two-point conversion, but there's no hat for that.) – Jon Ericson Dec 17 '14 at 22:05
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    @DevSolar That's one way to look at it. Tell you what. Get the SE folks to change the number of votes required for the handegg hat and I'll update my answer accordingly. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 19 '14 at 13:46
18

A handegg is an American football.

It doesn't (often) touch the foot and isn't (much of) a ball shape.

14
+50

Handegg is a village in Switzerland, in the Canton of Bern, somewhat near Lucerne. Beautiful place, I am sure, but just why they named that hat after it escapes me.

  • With my vote.. have a hand-egg helmet :) – James Webster Dec 23 '14 at 10:34
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    Thanks, I'll be sure to wear it if I visit Switzerland :). Is it sad that this little joke is my most upvoted answer in the network? – xebtl Dec 23 '14 at 10:37
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    Only a little. My most upvoted answer is a piece of code that doesn't work ;) – James Webster Dec 23 '14 at 10:40
  • Note that in German the syllables would be "Han" (pronounced "hahn") and "degg" - thus, the pronunciation is ever-so-slightly different that the English "hand-egg". Ah, America and Switzerland - two countries separated by several thousand miles, an ocean, a couple of intervening countries, a bunch of mountains, some pretty big rivers, and mutually incomprehensible languages. – Bob Jarvis Dec 8 '17 at 13:02
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Handegg:

Etymology

  • From hand +‎ egg, by deliberate contrast to football meaning “soccer”, emphasizing the use of the hands and an elongated rather than round ball.

handegg (countable and uncountable, plural handeggs)

  • (slang, uncountable) A humorous term for the game of American football, or for any other sport called “football” that uses a prolate spheroid instead of a ball and in which the hands may be used, such as Canadian football or rugby.

(from en.wiktionary.org)

  • 2
    Is this a regionalism? – tchrist Dec 17 '14 at 15:35
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    Not in the US.,, – Oldcat Dec 17 '14 at 20:11
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    @tchrist: If it's any "ism" it's probably anti-americanism. I've seen it used (and have used it myself) in many online forums where the membership includes a large number of people from the US but they're not the overwhelming majority. I've seen it used by Malaysians, Indians, Brazilians, Germans, Brits etc. – slebetman Dec 18 '14 at 8:18
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    Note that depending on the forum/community, the use of the word "handegg" can devolve into either playful banter or heated flamewars. – slebetman Dec 18 '14 at 8:20
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It's an American football. It could also be related to Rugby football as rugby players are jovially known as "egg-chasers" in Britain.

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    This Brit has never heard of "egg-chasers", but admittedly does not follow Rugby in either code. – Colin Fine Dec 17 '14 at 16:09
  • Except you don't wear a helmet in Rugby. Out of interest, if you search "egg-chaser" on google, the first link is urban dictionary, the next few are unrelated, then you arrive at this page. – Pharap Dec 17 '14 at 19:19
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    This Brit has very definitely heard "egg-chasers" as a light-hearted derisory term for players of Rugby Football, particularly from fans of Association Football. – Phil M Jones Dec 18 '14 at 10:18
  • Just to join in on the "vote", this Brit has never heard of "egg-chasers" either. I (used to) follow rugby, but if it's mostly used derisively by <strike>hooligans</strike> association football fans, that makes sense as I don't follow football. – James Webster Dec 23 '14 at 10:37
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Blame the English, they invented the names for all of the sports derived from soccer.

Association football (soccer) came first.
Then the English named the next game rugby football, after the town in England that changed the rules of soccer.

Then others derived games from rugby, still keeping the football name.

  • Rugby Football League
  • Australian Football League
  • American Football

If you're English and you want to whine about the names your country gave the sport, then harden up and go play something with some contact in it.

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