January 16, 2017 ☼ Word of the Day

Today’s word of the day can be styled bull’s-eye, but the unhyphenated compound is more common. Though stripping away the punctuation abstracts this compound (a bahuvrihi) from its constituent stems, it serves the semantic result. The pruned bullseye is more exact and precise and on target.

  1. (Naut.) A small circular or oval wooden block without sheaves, having a groove around it and a hole through it, used for connecting rigging.
  2. A small round cloud, with a ruddy center, supposed by sailors to portend a storm.
  3. A small thick disk of glass inserted in a deck, roof, floor, ship’s side, etc., to let in light.
  4. A circular or oval opening for air or light.
  5. A lantern, with a thick glass lens on one side for concentrating the light on any object; also, the lens itself. Dickens.
  6. (Astron.) Aldebaran, a bright star in the eye of Taurus or the Bull.
  7. (Archery & Gun.) The center of a target.
  8. A thick knob or protuberance left on glass by the end of the pipe through which it was blown.
  9. A small and thick old-fashioned watch. [Colloq.]

None of these definitions mention a male cow or his face parts. How is it that I’ve been spared the mental image of a pierced bovine sclera, even though the words are right there?

I’ve had occasion to use both forms of bullseye, noun and interjection, at Kilowatt bar in San Francisco, California, when a stranger challenged me to a friendly competition: closest to the bullseye. Thanks to an afternoon of practice, approximately three alcoholic beverages, and lots of luck, I landed precisely on the red.

It’s remarkable that there are sports that commingle luck and booze in this way. It’s not uncommon to see players with a dart in one hand and a pint in the other in professional dart tournaments. Bowling is also helped by a few beers, though mostly in amateur leagues. Then there are “sports” like sloshball where alcohol is mentioned by name in the rules:

Sloshball is kickball with beer. A keg is used in place of second base. When runners reach second base, they must finish a cup of beer before moving on to third. However, there is no force out at third base, so an unlimited number of people can be on second base drinking beer. Urban Dictionary

One only needs to bend the definition of sport to discover more pastimes with strong association to the drink. I don’t know that I have seen tabletop shuffleboard any place but a bar. And it’s unheard of that anyone play cornhole (or even suggest it) without already being halfway in the tank. Even those games with a more mature demographic, like bocce or croquet, pair well with a Pimm’s punch or a gin cocktail.

More fundamental in contests of drink-oriented fun are those that dispense with athleticism altogether. Games that add a ABV-based ticker to erstwhile innocuous activities like: board games, a game of cards, listening to Roxanne by The Police, or (admittedly not-that-innocuous) Never Have I Ever. All one needs for this category is a table and to be 19 years old.

Purer still is the game incited by the announcement, “Let’s do shots,” in a commercial establishment that serves alcohol. It’s not a request as much as it is a call to join the roster. Immediately there are losers. Memories of vintage hangovers send some shell-shocked ones scurrying.

With the brave remainder, the second round begins: the selection of the spirit. For those new to the game, and early in their collegiate careers, it’s likely to be a shooter. Shooters are potions composed in equal parts of sugar and a memorable name. Not unlike the symptoms of binge drinking, shooter names are generally cutesy, sexual, or violent, viz., Polar Bear, Buttery Nipple, Kamikaze.

For senior students of the sport, made jagged by practice, the only option is tequila. While players drop out at the mention of the Mexican spirit, the bartender collects the game pieces. Salt to start the round, and a pacifier of lime to signal victory.

But even shots misses the mark.

The most distilled sport in the name of imbibing does not involve darts, or bean bags, or shouted woos at a counter in a tavern. The truest game of drinking is solitaire. There may be other people around, but game play always proceeds in isolation. There is no score kept, no nomenclature, no rules. There is merely one object. To bring the booze to its target. To hit the bullseye. To plunge a dart of poison deep into the eye of the beast, and to draw blood.