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As I was watching the NFL playoffs tonight, it occurred to me to wonder where the word “punt” comes from. Several places, it turns out:

  • The Irish punt, their currency prior to the euro, is derived from the English pound.
  • The kind of punt that you pole down the Thames gets its name from the Latin ponto, or pontoon.
  • The verb punt, meaning to gamble, derives from the Spanish punto, or point.
  • The football version of punt derives from…..something. No one knows what, but apparently it originated with rugby. Several sources suggest it’s an alteration of the Midlands dialect bunt, “to push, butt with the head,” which is itself of obscure origin.

So the internet has failed me. In fact, it even forced me to refer to my dead tree dictionary, which also has no idea where the football form of the word originated. Isn’t that great? We know where all the ancient versions came from, but the only modern usage has its origins lost in the mists of time.

Still, it’s a great sounding word, isn’t it? Personally, I think it derives from the fact that when you kick a football (or a rugby ball, I suppose), the sound it makes is a lot like punt. Go ahead. Say it five times fast. It’s kind of soothing.

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