08 December 2009


Khya has recently been hired by Target, and in a training he was learning about how to attend to handicapped aka handi-capable customers. I said, "capable is not the opposite of cap."
But then I got to thinking... maybe it is! What does "handicap" even mean? Where does this come from!?
In the dictionary, the very first definition of handicap is
1. a race or other contest in which certain disadvantages or advantages of weight, distance, time, etc., are placed upon competitors to equalize their chances of winning.
I immediately thought of horse-racing, where the horses have to have a certain handicap put on them--which is an amount of weight they have to carry so that all the horses will weigh the same at the start of the race?? I don't know. No.
A handicap race is a horse race where horses carry different weights. A better horse will carry a heavier weight in order to make the race more fair. This allows for more skill in betting.
Handicap races are also common in clubs which encourage all levels of participants such as a swimming club or in cycling races as well. All the participants are clocked in a time trial before the races, known as the handicap. In the race itself, the participants don't start at go, but the starts are staggered based on the handicaps. The slowest swimmer/cyclist starts the earliest and the fastest starts the latest, making the end of the race really close. An ideal handicap race is one in which all participants finish at the same time. The one to win is the person that beats his/her own time. Isn't that a lovely concept?
Ok so does all this give us a better pointer as to where the word "handicap" actually came from? Yes.
In the 1600s there was a betting game with three participants. Two players and one referee. The two players would put some money into the pot--originally, a literal, physical cap/hat. Then they would put a valuable items up for betting and the referee would tell them how much money each must supply in order for their bets to be of equal value. NOW, the players had the option to either supply that money or not. They were basically calling each other's bluffs.
Both traders put their hands into the cap, and draw them out at the same time. An open hand is an agreement to trade and a closed hand is a refusal to trade. Hence the name of the game: hand-in-cap.
  • If they both had open hands, they would exchange goods and the referee would keep the cash.
  • If both had closed hands, the referee would keep the money and the goods would not be exchanged.
  • If only one had an open hand, he got the money and the goods were not exchanged.
Handicapping thus became a term for leveling out the field by making the stronger contestant bear a penalty. A term which had made the jump from a game's name to 'way to equalize a contest' from there became synonymous with 'imposed impediment.' and then just 'impediment.'
So is "handi-capable" a more politically correct term than "handicapped"? I guess so... I guess you could even stretch the imagination and say yes, because one definition of cap is:
9. a maximum limit, as one set by law or agreement on prices, wages, spending, etc., during a certain period of time; ceiling: a 9 percent cap on pay increases for this year.
a limit, essentially. So, if someone is capped, they have limits, and you coulllllldddd say if they are capable then they are free of such limits...
stupid P.C. bullshit.


Andw said...

That's incredible. Good hunt, Chela, good hunt.

Today's comment word is "carph," a roof overhang with faux icicles attached.

Chela said...

Thanks! This one was fun.