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Where did the sports term chalk come from?
March 16, 2007 7:51 AM   Subscribe

What is the origin of the term "chalk", as it refers to the higher seeded team in basketball, or the betting favorite? Is this related to Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk, KU ?

I've read the history of the "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk" chant, as well as Urban Dictionary's info on "chalk". The first makes no correlation between the chant, and the term used in this manner. The latter does not explain how the term came into being, or why it's become (to my ear at least) much more prominent in the past couple years. Did Dickie V spread this into popular use?
posted by stovenator to Writing & Language (6 answers total)
"Chalk - When a horse is the favorite -- or has the most money bet on it -- that horse is termed the "chalk." Interestingly, this term comes from the pre-computer era of the bookie. When a bookie recorded bets on a blackboard, the odds would change over and over as more and more people bet on the favorite. The horse became known as the "chalk" because the horse's name would disappear in chalk dust as the bookie constantly erased and lowered the horse's odds."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:04 AM on March 16, 2007

Ummm... cool. Is there a link?
posted by stovenator at 8:06 AM on March 16, 2007

Looks like Racehorse Magazine.
posted by cashman at 8:22 AM on March 16, 2007

The "Rock Chalk" chant dates to 1866, when it was adopted by the University Science Club. A chemistry professor, E.H.S. Bailey and some of his associates were returning to Lawrence from Wichita on a train. As the story goes, they passed the time by trying to create a rousing cheer. The sound of the train's wheels on the rails suggested a rhythm and a cadence to them. At first, the cheer was "Rah, Rah, Jayhawk, KU" repeated three times.

Even though KU didn't have a football team until four years later, KU students quickly took up the chant. Later, an English professor suggested "Rock Chalk," in place of "Rah, Rah" because it rhymed with Jayhawk and because it was symbolic of the limestone, also known as chalk rock, surrounding Mount Oread, the site of the Lawrence Campus. It became the official cheer of the University in 1897.

The greeks at KU also put on a variety show known as "Rock Chalk."
posted by gramcracker at 11:01 AM on March 16, 2007

gramcracker - hah! Last night the KU Rugby team was having an argument over the meaning of "rock chalk," and we settled on your answer. Good to know we were historically accurate.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 11:39 AM on March 16, 2007

Thanks gram - I had already read the history of RockChalk. I was more interested in chalk, as in "I'm picking all chalk in my bracket!"

I was asking if the two were related, but it seems that they aren't.
posted by stovenator at 12:20 PM on March 16, 2007

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