Posted by Masakim on January 03, 2003
In Reply to: Phrase currecntly being used posted by Bob on January 03, 2003
: : : What is the meaning of "run the table"? or "run the whole table?"
: : I
know the term from the game of pool aka "pocket billiards".
: : You "run the table" when you successfully sink every ball on the table thereby giving you control on the next round or "rack up".
: : I hear the term used in other sports to describe one team having a good day of scoring.
: Often it will be used in other sports to indicate a team (or, perhaps, individual) who can defeat all remaining opponents. "She is 6-0, and if she runs the table, will finish the season 9-0," meaning she has three more opponents she's likely to defeat. "They can make the playoffs only if they run the table."
"It may be tougher for Mark Green to _run
the table_ than a lot of people realize," wrote Bob Herbert of The Times, drafting
an Op-Ed column about the Democratic nominee in this week's New York mayoral election.
"I don't think any of us went in thinking we were going to _run the table_," said Michael Strahan, the New York Giants defensive end, referring to a string of pro-football victories last year that led some fans to believe the team could finish the season as Super Bowl champions.
On election night in last year's presidential race (was it only last year?), the phrase's attraction won over, in rapid succession, Dan Rather of CBS ("Gore . . . virtually has to _run the table_ of states that are still undecided"), Jeff Greenfield of CNN ("George Bush now has to _run the table_") and Tim Russert of NBC ("If Gore wins Florida, Bush has to _run the table_ and win Iowa, Nevada, Oregon, Wisconsin . . . ").
Where is this metaphoric table, and who runs it? Does it have, as some readers suggest, a poker origin? Because I was accused in my youth of having a "pool-hall pallor," my hunch was that the origin was the table covered by green felt. I aimed an etymological cushion shot at Tom Shaw, managing editor of Pool and Billiard Magazine and co-author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pool and Billiards." (The book does not profess to be a comprehensive guide; the adjective _complete_ modifies _idiot_, the reader, not the _guide_.)
"_To run the table_," defines Shaw, "is to clear the table of all the balls and thereby to win the game. The phrase began to be used about 40 years ago, but the usage picked up in the last decade or so."
[William Safire, "On Language," _New York Times Magazine_, November 4, 2001]