Rubber Match
What is the origin of the phrase "Rubber match"? First impression is to say baseball...or maybe boxing...or perhaps basketball. But it has also been used in politics, war and economy.

Any help??

Lewis Joplin II
It's another unsolved mystery.

RUBBER MATCH - "A 'rubber match' or 'rubber game' or simply 'rubber' in any sport means a deciding contest between two tied opponents. The term dates back to the late 16th century but no one seems certain of its etymology or in what sport it originated. The expression was not used in card games until the mid 18th century and the earliest recorded use of it appears to be a 1599 reference, cited in the 'Oxford English Dictionary,' to the game of bowls. The word 'rubber' in the term seems to derive from a word of unknown origin, not the resilient substance called 'rubber' or the verb 'to rub.'" From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

The semantics of both the verb, "to rub," and the gummy substance are reconcilable to the phrase. Where the contest is close, one may say that the contestants are close enough to rub against each other. Also, where each contestant continues to win individual matches, the set can be seen to bounce between them (as rubber bounces), the set can be seen to stretch (as rubber stretches) on to "extra" matches. The substance became known as "rubber" for its use in erasing, or rubbing-out. Where the number of wins are equal, they can be seen as nullifying or rub-out the significance of the history, putting the onus on the rubber match to decide a winner.

This is all mere rationalization, however. The semantics might very be related to an etymological link to some unknown word, rendering the reconcialtion to the verb or the substance moot. On that tip, I'd suspect, just intuitively, something from French and that it relates to tennis somehow. Perhaps, "rabâcher", "rabais", "rabat", "rabiot", "rabot", "rabrouer", "rebondissement", "rebord", "rebuffade", "rebut", "repartie", "répartir", "réplique", "report", "repris", "reproche", "requérir", "riposte", ou "ruban."

Frank Pierce
These excellent explanations of a close or "squeaker" match between two opposing contestants still don't explain its use in bridge where it simply means two sequential makings of one's bid and the bonus points given to those partners. Given my abilities at the bridge table, many times the game isn't even close.

Ah, I'd even forgotten about the squeekiness property. I'm gonna' stick with a bastardization of a French term for repitition, and I just plain intuit that it relates to tennis becoming popular with English nobility.
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