We’ve talked a good deal about soccer of late. Now for some ruggers.
Scrum refers to the deal in rugby where all or most of the players join in a kind of aggressive group hug. (I await scornful corrections and clarifications.) The OED’s first citation for a metaphorical use–denoting “a confused, noisy throng (at a social function or the like)”–is Murder Included, by J. Cannan (1950): “I kept wondering where you were..in that awful scrum.” That and all subsequent cites in the dictionary are British except for a 1979 quote from the Globe & Mail of Toronto.
Scrum appeared to arrive in the U.S. in the 1970s as well. Early uses tended to be make the metaphor explicit, as in an article by the NY Times’ R.W. “Johnny” Apple about a Watergate trial: Judge Sirica, he wrote, had jurors “approach the bench individually to talk to him and to a kind of rugby scrum of lawyers straining to hear the process.”
As Wes Davis pointed out to me, scrum is now everywhere in the U.S. media. Google News reports that fourteen hours ago (as I write), the Omaha World-Herald posted, “An arbitrator’s report details why an Omaha officer was reinstated after her role in an arrest scrum last year outside Creighton University.”
But Johnny Apple’s erstwhile employer, the Times, has given the word more love, by far, than any other publication. Wes noted a front-page story in the paper yesterday about low pay in Apple stores (great article by the way): “If a solution took longer to find, which it frequently did, a pileup ensued and a scrum of customers would hover.” But that’s one example out of thousands. The Times has used scrum an astonishing 98 times in 2012, all but a handful of them in a non-rugby context. Time to give it a rest, methinks.