phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: Skittles

Posted by Lotg on October 13, 2004

In Reply to: Skittles posted by Lewis on October 12, 2004

: : : I have heard that the phrase comes from the 1920's in Memphis where there were (and still are) ducks living in an encloser on the roof of the Peabody Hotel. Their trainer literally gets his ducks in a row to parade them down the elevator to the lobby twice a day creating quite a spectacle. There's a red carpet and everything!

: : Here's what one reference says:

: : "Ducks in a Row, Get/Put Your - Primitive versions of modern bowling were known many centuries ago. Pins of varied sizes and shapes were employed. Eventually they were standardized at fifteen inches in both height and circumstances. Originally called ten-pins, the equipment used in Europe was employed in the earliest American bowling saloons. The game was modified by introduction of a short, slender pin that was compared with a duck and, by extension, called them duckpins. So many people reset so many pins in rows that one who completes a task is commended as having put his 'ducks in a row.'" From "Why You Say It" by Webb Garrison.

: in some pubs - mainly rural ones - people play the original game of "skittles" - the number of pins varies, but 9 set up in an oblique square with a point towards the bowler is common (nine pins). the pub has an 'alley' which is sometimes just some planks of wood to give an edge to the playing area. the thrower gets 2 or more usually 3 balls and can score a max of 18 (3 x 9). I think they call a turn of 3 balls a 'hand'.
: the balls - like in crown-green or flat-green bowling - are wooden, hence the word "wood" to describe a ball. sometimes solid rubber balls are used these days, but the traditional set-up is a wooden floor with convex pins and wooden balls.
: scoring is usually the traditional chalk on blackboard.

: it's pretty competitive too.

You've brought back fond memories. We used to play skittles, quoits and carpet bowls when I was a kid. In fact we also used to play 'carpet bowls' outside on the lawn or in the dirt - hehe, funny but we still called it carpet bowls. Nowadays the carpet bowl equivalent is probably called Bocci (and yes I realise that's a very old Italian game - but we '50s & '60s Aussies didn't know that then), don't know if there's a modern equivalent of quoits and I supposed the nearest modern equivalent to skittles would be 10 pin bowling.