Learn English – What’s a “handegg”


What’s a handegg?

NOTE: This question is primarily related to the etymology of a compound noun which is not in The Dictionary.

There is a hat this year called “Handegg”, given out for a posting that reaches a score of +7. But here’s the problem: the word handegg does not occur in the Oxford English Dictionary! Neither does hand-egg nor hand egg.

Given that absence, I would like to know:

  1. What is exact etymology and history of handegg as documented by reputable scholarly sources?

  2. What is the primary sense of handegg, and are there any auxiliary senses or attendant connotations?

  3. Is handegg a word used in only one region or sociolect, or is it a word that most native speakers of English the whole wide world around would reasonably be expected know?

  4. Is handegg an inventive substitution for some other, better-known term?

  5. If handegg has a primary sense that is not shall we say “off-color”, does the word also some sort of double entendre whereby it also means something risqué?

Although that looks like five questions, it really is only one. To be accepted, only the first question needs answering. The others are just elaborations on the first.

Background: I’m asking because I kept reading handegg as handbag, which I genuinely thought it was until only a couple minutes ago when I was disabused of this misreading, but that only brought new mysteries. In the accent of Green Bay, Wisconsin, bag and egg can seem to have the same vowel due to the bag–beg merger, so maybe this is how I misread it.

Best Answer

CBS Sports has this nice article explaining the origin of the word, including a newspaper snippet from 1909:

New York Times snippet

“Hand-Egg,” Not Football.

To the Editor of The New York Times:

Football is certainly a misnomer, for the game is played not with the feet but with the hands, and the ball is not a ball but an egg.

I propose that the game be played with the feet and with a ball, or else that it be called “hand-egg.”

New York, Nov. 7, 1909.

Hand-egg is the proposed word for what has been named football when describing a sport in which an egg is moved using one's hands, instead of an activity where a ball is moved with one’s feet.