Monday, July 21, 2008


It was good to see Greg Norman do so well in the British Open – until Sunday, at any rate. The TV commentators couldn’t stay away from the word choke in reference to Greg’s earlier career. They have permanently saddled him with the name The Choker.

In sports, to choke is to feel such anxiety and internal pressure that the game you are playing suffers. Nerves take over and performance slips to an almost amateur level.

The origin of the verb to choke is obscure, but the Oxford English Dictionary suggests that it is associated with cheek, just as throttle is related to throat.

At any rate, there are a few words that conceal the idea of choking in their gullets.

• angina, anxious > L. angere, to choke.
• pnicogen (element in the periodic table), pnigophobia (fear of choking) > Gr. pnigein, to choke
• prefocation (obs.) > L. praefocatio choking [L. faux = throat]

SIDEBAR: how to avoid choking

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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