Posted by ESC on August 09, 2001

In Reply to: Handicap posted by Bruce Kahl on August 09, 2001

: : I'm trying to find the Original meaning of the phrase, "cap in hand" (or possibly hand in cap.
: : People in the disability movement think the origin of handicap is " cap in hand" ie begging and therefore derrogatory. Others say its "cap in hand" as in horse racing where originally jockeys had to hold their cap as a early "handicap". The Oxford Dictionary says, possibly "hand in cap" was an early game - pulling tokens or cards out of the hat - in a "sporting lottery"
: : HELP!

: Etymology: obsolete English handicap (a game in which forfeit money was held in a cap), from hand in cap

: Handicap.
: A game at cards not unlike loo, but with this difference:
: the winner of one trick has to put in a double stake, the winner of two tricks a triple stake, and so on. Thus: if six persons are playing, and the general stake is 1s., and A gains three tricks, he gains 6s., and has to "hand i' the cap" or pool 3s. for the next deal. Suppose A gains two tricks and B one, then A gains 4s. and B 2s., and A has to stake 3s. and B 2s. for the next deal.

: E. Cobham Brewer 1810-1897. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898

"handicap n. Probably before 1653, from 'hand in cap' a wagering game in which forfeit money was deposited in a cap. Reference to horse racing appeared in 'Handy-Cap Match' . The sense of encumbrance or disability, is first recorded in 1890." From "Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology" by Robert K. Barnhart (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 1995).

Coincidentally, I was researching the American Disabilities Act today. The U.S. Department of Justice site says that in official use the word "handicap" has been displaced by "disability." Another thought, "people first" language is considered more enlightened. Example: "Person with a disability." Not "disabled person" (defining and labeling the person on the basis of a single attribute).