Watching the snooker at the Crucible this last week got me wondering where the word ‘snooker’ comes from, and whether it or the game came first.

Snooker the game was invented by British army officers in India in the 1870s (or thereabouts). It seems there wasn’t much for them to do apart from invent new variations of billiards!

The word ‘snooker’ was British slang for a first year cadet (or ‘rookie’ perhaps) – a player was called a snooker because of his lack of experience, which stuck, both for the game and play within it.

So the word snooker was around informally before, but probably only known in army circles. It’s such a good word, I’m glad they chose it. The verb form (to thwart by placing an obstacle in the way) is now widely understood in everyday speech, even if you’ve never heard the hushed but excited John Virgo wondering where the cue ball is going.

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