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The Collywobbles

Posted by TheFallen on March 29, 2003

In Reply to: The Collywobbles posted by James Briggs on March 29, 2003

: : In Melbourne Victoria we have an Australian Rules football team named after the Melbourne suburb where its home ground is, Collingwood. Collingwood used to be a very working class suburb and is quite close to the centre of the city. The football team has been around for almost as long as Australian Rules has been played which is now more than 140 years.

: : The term collywobbles is used in Melbourne to describe Collingwood's inability to achieve a grand final win because of both prematch nerves and the club's expectations exceeding their on the day performance. Although they have appeared in more than 70 of the 106 final series since the Football League formed in 1897, they have only won 14 premierships. They won the grandfinal in 1958 and played in 9 grandfinals until finally winning again in 1990. It was in the years immediately prior to 1990 the term began its attachment to the team. It has continued since, Collingwood failed again last year to win agains a team (the Brisbane Lions) which is now coached by the man who coached them in 1990, and consists on a combination of a new team and the remnants of Coolingwood's neighbouring suburb Fitzroy.

: The word was first recorded in the mid 19th century and is reckoned to derive from 'colic' + 'wobble'. How does this fit with Collingwood? You suggest they were playing Aussie Rules in the 1850s-60s, but I must admit that I prefer the 'colic' derevation.

The collywobbles was originally an informal term to describe griping gastric or intestinal pains, with the derivation as described above. From there it evolved figuratively to describe a state of nervousness prior to an important event - a more unpleasant version of "butterflies in one's stomach", if you like - since having a queasy or uneasy feeling in the pit of one's stomach is a traditionally recognised symptom of tension and nervousness.

I imagine that some smart mid to late C19th Australian wit or journalist noticed the similarity between the word collywobbles and Collingwood, and, given the latter's alleged tendency to choke at the crucial moment, delightedly linked the two together.