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The meaning and origin of the expression: Route one

Route one

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Route one'?

In regard to football 'route one' is a direct form of attack in which the ball is kicked high and long towards the goal, in order to stage an attack. In wider use it is a generalized term for any direct no-nonsense means to an end.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Route one'?

'Route one' - the long kick upfield followed by a goalmouth scramble - is a commonly used but widely derided footballing tactic. It is often perceived to be employed by teams that are heavy on physicality but light on skill.

The meaning and origin of the phrase 'Route one'The expression derives from the BBC television quiz show Quizball, which ran from 1966 to 1972. In that show teams (often footballers) attempted to score 'goals' by answering general knowledge questions. They could opt to answer either four easy questions, three less easy, two less easy again or one difficult question. The one-question option was called Route One. So, 'route one' became synonymous with a direct, straight to the goal approach.

Here's an early example of the expression in print, from The Liverpool Echo, April 1972:

Ask Liverpool's assistant manager Bob Paisley about Roger Hunt and his Geordie brogue calls on a television programme to succinctly illustrate his point.

"If you put Roger on Quizball he would always take Route One," he said. "That epitomized Roger Hunt. Nothing fancy, just honest and straightforward."

The expression began to be used more generally in footballing circles in the 1970s, as in this example from The Guardian, August 1978:

Ardiles is so positive.., it's route one for goal. All he wants to do is go forward or knock the ball forward.

It's worth noting that, in the original Quizball context, Route One wasn't the 'hit and hope' method that it later became to characterize.

See also: 'back to square one'.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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