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Where does "rookie" come from?
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Abby Perkins, researcher, Baseball Hall of Fame: Apparently, it's a military term. Ten-hut! Mary Laura Kludy, archives assistant, Virginia Military Institute: We don't call them "rookies." We call them "rats." Nice. Paul Dickson, author, The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary: A 1903 supplement to Webster's New International Dictionary lists "rookie" as soldiers' slang for a raw recruit, but the etymology is uncertain. Blast it! It first appears in a baseball context in the New York Evening Journal in 1908 and was in common use by World War I. The War to End All Wars? Right. Rudyard Kipling is credited with the first usage, in his Barrack-Room Ballads of 1892. So 'ark an' 'eed you rookies/Which is always grumblin' sore. Catchy. But some people say it derives from the rook in chess. Good gambit! Joan DuBois, media coordinator, U.S. Chess Federation: Not exactly. "Rook" in chess comes from the Sanskrit word for chariot. Drat! And besides, we don't call inexperienced players "rookies." We call them "wood pushers." Ouch! Roy Mumme, etymologist, Florida Gulf Coast University: "Rookie" seems to be a corruption of "recruit," which derives from the Latin crescere: to grow. As in, "You gotta grow your own." It may also have been influenced by the Middle English word "rook": to cheat or swindle. Aha! But the word cuts both ways and can refer to either the cheater or the cheated. Nifty. Or, in today's vernacular, what we'd call the "rooker" and the "rookie," who, as we've seen, is often an easy target for hazing and practical jokes. 'Ark! No wonder they're so grumblin' sore!

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