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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Let’s Twist Again

Every curler has been asked: “Why is the game called Curling?” and we all answer: “When you deliver the stone you put a slight turn on the stone so it “curls” as it goes down the ice”.   Wrong answer.  The game was played for over 200 years and the players did not purposely put a turn on the stone.

Many years ago, I was able to conduct an experiment on a natural ice pond with 3 different types of curling stones:  wooden; flat-soled and an early concave stone.  When trying to deliver a stone on natural ice (meaning: there are cracks, biases, other imperfections and no pebble) the first thing you find is that it is very difficult to throw the stone with any distance.  If you get the chance, try to deliver a stone after a fresh flooding or after a major Ice-King scraping before the pebble is applied.

The second thing you notice is the lack of “curl”.  Without the pebble the stone does not ‘bend’ in any repeatable fashion.  Moreover, the imperfections in a natural ice surface can change or increase the ‘bend’ remarkably and unexpectedly.  

In the early-1800’s many groups were taking credit for inventing the Twist.  There was the Fenwick Twist, the Canadian Twist, the Kilmarnock Twist, the Timothy Twist and others.  The earliest record we found of curlers using the Twist comes from Mr. John Fulton of Fenwick, Scotland: “If I recall aright the first year of the century [1800] was the year of its birth.  That year was memorable for the length and severity of its winter…  It was told, that day after day a few of the Fenwick players were never absent from a small loch in the parish.  Here they met and amused themselves as best they could, playing every imaginable shot.  While thus engaged, they observed the effect of the rotary motion on a stone…so they set themselves up to give the stone one or the other twist.”  The Fenwick curlers went on to defeat their opposition repeatedly with their new-found skill and passed that knowledge to the neighboring parishes.

The Kilmarnock Treatise on Curling (1828) offers these definitions:  Outside Twist – Lift the stone…swing it towards the side, outward and forward, making it describe a semicircle.  This is done with the shoulder and elbow joints, without turning the wrist much.  Inside Twist – Lift the stone as before; and as the swing forward is given, bring the elbow close to the body, turning the wrist fully in delivery.

Later the Twist was called the Out-Sweep and the In-Sweep.  Today we call it the Out-Turn and the In-Turn.

So, how did the game get its name?  The oldest books and modern day books we have researched seem to agree that the word Curl is from the German word Kurzweil:  an amusement; a game.  The word Curling from Kurzweillen:  to play for amusement.

Gute Kurzweillen,
Angus VonTavish

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