EP word of the week (#102): terra batida

This week marked the start of the 2017 French Open, a very important tennis competition – one of the 4 Grand Slams of the sport -, also commonly known as Roland Garros (the name of the sports complex in Paris where all the matches take place).

As all tennis aficionados know, the French Open is only Grand Slam played on clay, one of the major surfaces in the sport. The second Grand Slam of the year is preceded by a long tour of different, lesser clay court tournaments, with it being seen as the culmination of the Spring clay court season (there are two smallest groups of clay court tournaments in the winter and in the summer, but in the spring is where the important tournaments take place).

In Portugal, the name we use for this surface (the setting where the game takes place) – clay in the contest of tennis – is [a] terra batida, a calque from French [la] terre battue. Both names allude to the ground, crushed rock (shale, stone or brick, with helps give it its common red colouring – there are some tournaments with green clay, though). Therefore, a clay court will usually be called [o] court de terra batida in the media and by professionals.

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Rafael Nadal, conhecido como “o Rei da Terra Batida” pelo seu domínio nesta superfície, a jogar num court de terra batida. Rafael Nadal, known as “the King of Clay” for his dominance in the surface, playing in a clay court.

In Brazil, the most common word for the same surface is [o] saibro, which outside of this realm refers to a mixture of sand and clay used in construction, or a kind of thick sand with pebbles (vd. Wiktionary); in fact, the word ultimately comes from Latin sabulum, which is also the origin of French sable, their word for sand (in Portuguese, thw word is [a] areia, which interestingly comes – as someone who doubles as a Spanish speaker can deduce – from Latin arēna, which is also the cognate of the English arena, in Portuguesa [a] arena). That said, the general word for clay as a construction material and rock is [a] argila.

As I’m sure some of you already know, the word for grass also changes between the two languages, even when you’re talking about tennis: [a] relva on this side of the pond, [a] grama on the other.

So, who (man and/or woman) are you rooting for to win this year’s French Open? As always, feel free to eave your comments/questions/thoughts in the comments!

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