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Postby Guest » 07/05/06 12:14 PM

A colleague on another email list is researching some slang that has a passing reference to playing cards, so I'm hoping someone here can help.

Would anyone know what "poll on whist" means in the 1883 college slang item below? (Whist is a card game, of course, but what is "poll on whist"?). And what is "the little book" referred to at the end? Is it a humorous reference to a deck of cards?

This is from the _Princetonian_, 23 Feb. 1883, p. 206/1-2 . .

The Princetonian article says in part:
'Many colleges have a different slang expression to convey the same idea. If a man is studying faithfully at Harvard he is said to be 'GRINDING"; at Yale, "DIGGING"; and here the hard worker is a "POLLER." The derivation of the first two is quite obvious, but the origin of the latter is shrouded in mystery. Our enemies have suggested this explanation. They claim that Princeton men are always found to be experiened manipulators of 'PASTEBOARDS" and hence must have devoted much time and careful attention to "poll on whist." So, when the examinations draw fearfully near, and demand immediate atention, the student applies himself with that assiduity which has characterized his study of the little book already mentioned in short, he "POLLS."'
I'm guessing, from context, that there was a book called "Poll on Whist". Can anyone help out here?

Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 07/05/06 12:37 PM

Digging around on Google, I discovered that a man named William Pole published a number of books on Whist, including one entitled "Pole on Whist". It appears that he did some in-depth scientific studies on the game. Considering he lived from 1814 to 1900, it wouldn't surprise me if he was the inspiration for the slang term back then.

Looks like the actual title of the book was "The Theory of the Modern Scientific Game of Whist", but was referred to as "Poll on Whist". It was released in 1872 and at 96 pages would seem to qualify as a "little book."

Jim Maloney_dup1
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Postby Geno Munari » 07/05/06 06:17 PM

I have never played Whist, which is a card game, but maybe I did. I played a version called two handed whist or honeymoon bridge. Great gambling game. In the poker rooms, shortcards were a hot item. This game was interesting, as you would lay odds to your opponent. You could look at the set up and then lay or take odds on your hand.

Two cards down to each player. Then all the cards were dealt to each. Each player could only look at the two cards dealt down. Then the remainding cards were 24 for each player. 12 were put face down and the remainder placed face up on the 12. Then the receiver, not the dealer would lead. Big issue here.

Spades is always trump and you must follow suit.
The most tricks wins.

Fortunes won and lost on this little known side game.

I hope this was some insight for you.
Geno Munari
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Postby Guest » 07/05/06 07:39 PM

I've played a variety of types of Whist over the years. It's generally recognized as a predecessor of bridge, i believe. The versions i've played are 4 handed, all the cards go out, last card dealt to the dealer is trump. You follow suit, with trump beating all. You play in partnership and take tricks. The scoring varies from one version to another, but generally points don't begin until a certain number of tricks are taken by each team (i think it started at 7 tricks giving your team a point, 8 giving 2 points, etc - not sure - it's been a while).

I'm curious as to the origin of the expression mentioned in the first post too. And Jim's post is interesting.

Postby Guest » 07/06/06 01:26 AM

Whist Drives used to be popular in the UK, and perhaps they still are. No idea why they're called "Drives". A load of people would sit at tables, four per table, and play Whist. I played in a couple of them decades ago, just social occasions.

Just like Bridge, but no partner, no dummy, no bidding, and I can't remember how trumps are decided.

(It's ages since I last played Whist, and I don't play Bridge.)


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