Sporting Vernacular 18. CHICANE

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The Independent Online
MARTIN BRUNDLE'S Le Mans 24 Hour Race came to a premature end early yesterday when he was bamboozled by a chicane - a structure designed to do exactly that.

The word, from French, originally denoted a dispute in the golf-like game of mall (chaugan meant club, bat or polo stick), but soon came to mean the art of subterfuge or trickery, as in "chicanery".

Last century, in a progression of uncertain etymology, the word came to mean the condition of holding no trumps in bridge. Later, it was applied to a disguised construction on a motor racing track. The first reference in the OED is from 1955 in the Times: "The Lancia skidded at the chicane, demolished the wall bordering the sea, and dropped into the harbour." Brundle was luckier on Saturday, but the chicane had done its work again.

Chris Maume