All sorts of Hat Tricks!

Level B2

Anyone and everyone who is into football knows what a “hat trick” is.  For those who don’t, I shall not only reveal to you what it is, but also where that rather odd expression used in football comes from.

Firstly, a hat trick is used to describe the achievement of a footballer who has scored three goals in the same match.  But why call it a hat trick?  Footballers no longer wear hats as they did in the past before the regulatory kits were brought in (1870) in order to distinguish the teams.  And do footballers have tricks up their sleeves that permit them to score three goals in one match?

The answers to the first question can be found in cricket, believe it or not, and the use of the term dates as far back as the mid 1800’s, when cricketers took a hat trick. According to cricket literature if a bowler dismissed three batsmen in a row, either a collection was made and the money was used to buy a new hat for him, or a hat was passed around and the proceedings went to the fortunate bowler.

So there we have the mystery of the “hat” solved, but what about the word “trick”?   As to dismiss three batsmen in a row has always been considered to be an unusual feat, perhaps the cricketers decided to use the word “trick” to reflect its difficulty.  During Victorian Times, hat tricks had become a fad.  Today, we are all too familiar with the conjurer pulling such objects as ropes, ribbons and rabbits out of top hats, but back in the 1870’s the hat trick was performed in front of amused and perhaps even confused audiences.

When cricketers at that time wanted to give a name to their impressive achievement, perhaps they caught on to the conjurers’ very popular hat tricks and borrowed the name which was then adopted by the football world and most other sports.

Another amusing use of the term “hat trick” is its appropriation by the variety stage for the political stage where Victorian MP’s were said to have done a “hat trick” when they reserved their seat in the House of Commons by leaving a top hat and then doing a disappearing act!  What happened to them after that, nobody knows.