Sultans of spin, nabobs of negativity
SOME time ago a reader asked the apparently simple question: "Where and when did the term spin doctor come from?" A spin doctor, for those who do not follow politics too closely, is a political "minder" responsible for ensuring that others interpret an event from a particular point of view.
The spin in question comes from pool and baseball, according to Graeme Donald's Dictionary of Modern Phrase, "relating to a ball struck by the cue or pitched in such a way as to behave deceptively in travel due to what is known in British circles as 'side' or spin. The original spin doctor was a wily pool shooter or ball pitcher who could make the ball appear to travel true but in reality behave unpredictably."
Donald (who used to write on words for The Courier-Mail) does not give dates, but spin as in "slant" or "interpretation" dates from about 1984. The earliest reference to spin doctor I have come across is 1990. Any earlier citations will be welcomed.
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