Rugby World Cup: Sporting Vernacular 32. Touchline

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The Independent Online
THE TOUCHLINE, which marks the sides of the playing area for football or rugby, marks the point at which the pitch touches the out of bounds area. The word touch, derived from the Old French word "tochier" or "tuchier" meaning to touch, has come to refer in rugby also to the area immediately beyond the touchline where a player may step in touch. Outside sport one area in which the word touchline occurs is in shipbuilding, where it indicates a straight edge of the keel.

Back in 1889 H Vassall, in the publication Rugby Football, offered the following advice: "Our full-back should always bear in mind that he must send it [the ball] into touch at all costs as that means so much ground gained." Presumably if the poor unfortunate last line of defence had erred, he would have been kicked into touch himself.