[FOUNTAIN]Manners maketh the mayorFollowing the controversy over golf games, abuse of privilege at a tennis court is the new issue. The position has changed today but originally tennis was much nobler than golf. Golf was what Scottish shepherds enjoyed in their fields in the wind, but tennis was a game that French nobles enjoyed elegantly indoors. A sport named “Jeu de Paume” was the origin of tennis. The famous “Serment du Jeu de Paume” in 1867, that stirred the French Revolution, was actually a gathering of lawmakers in the Jeu de Paume stadium within Versailles Palace after the King shut down the assembly hall.
Jeu de Paume uses palms, paume, instead of a racket to hit the ball. Since it was a game for nobles, there were penalties for certain motions. You say greetings ― “Tenez” ― to your opponent when first hitting the ball. Using this word in English pronunciation, the game came to have the name “Tennis.” The contradiction of saying you are “serving” the ball when actually smashing it at speed of 200 kilometers per hour originated from here.
The French nobles counted scores elegantly using clocks. By splitting the clock into quarters, they moved the hands 15 minutes anytime a player scored. This is why a tennis score is calculated as 15, 30 and 40. But why 40 instead of 45? If they used the number 45, they had no space for a deuce. By moving the hand only one space, the problem was easily solved. The elegant nobles couldn’t use terms such as “fifteen to zero.” Since “0” looks similar to an egg, they called it “l’oeuf.” When this term went across to Britain, it became “love.”
Like golf, when tennis is played excessively, there can be side effects. A common problem is “tennis elbow.” A person was found to have tennis elbow right after joining a tennis club by paying a huge membership fee. Of course, there was no refund of the membership fee. Richard Taylor, an economist at Cornell University argues that the chances are high that this person will continue playing tennis despite the pain he feels. This is because accepting the financial loss could be more difficult than accepting his elbow pain. It is a metaphor that companies have a tendency of clinging to already invested money, the sunken cost, rather than looking at the forecast.
The mayor of Seoul has acquired tennis elbow by enjoying excessive tennis. He might even lose all the popularity he gained by creating waterways and organizing public squares as his sunken cost. If he had played with manners like the French nobles, there might be no trouble today. The lesson we can learn from this incident is that being excessive can cause trouble.
by Lee Hoon-beom
The writer is the head of the JoongAng Ilbo’s weekend news team.