Wrest in Peace

It was quite a coincidence that the day after drafting the previous post on terminology I borrowed from our indoor club a copy of Bowl with Bryant, and discovered a term I’d never been aware of, even after more than 25 years of bowling.

The word, which I first of all took to be either a misprint or an archaism, was “wrest”.  But if it’s the legendary David Bryant using it, then it must be right, no?  Sure enough, when taken in context it was clear that to wrest a bowl out means to push it away from its original position, while ideally replacing it with your own.

So here, rather surprisingly, we have two almost identical words being used for two almost identical events.   (Bear with me: I’m just trying to make this clear to myself as well!)  On the one hand, we rest a bowl by coming up against it and sitting in front of it; on the other, we wrest (= push) a bowl out by hitting it slightly harder, maybe leaving our own bowl in that place but presumably not worrying if it goes further because the main job has been done.

Now, as a linguist, I’m delighted to discover this erudite distinction, but it does seem like a recipe for total confusion when trying to communicate instructions (“Did you say ‘rest it’, or ‘wrest it?”; or maybe, “Was that ‘wrest’ with a w?”).

For what it’s worth, I have to say that I’ve always interpreted the expression as meaning a gentle rest, with your own bowl finishing closer to the jack than the target bowl. If you want a bowl to be pushed through, then the word “push” seems preferable. Similarly, to indicate that a player should rest (on) a bowl, the use of a word like ‘sit’ makes things clear:  “You’re looking to come in and sit on this bowl here.”

I hope this doesn’t all sound too abstruse or complex.  As an average player, I’ve managed for all those years without being aware of the technical term, and this post should be seen as a footnote rather than a major piece of information.

By the way, I came across the technical definitions here in helpful glossaries built up by clubs such as Borehamwood and Lewes, whose sites can be found if you google “glossary of lawn bowls” or similar.  Only if you’re interested, of course…


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