Updated 31/7/17 – Scroll to bottom for a few notes about ‘audax’
On the day of perhaps Britain’s largest and most well-known sportive – the Prudential Ride London – a few reflections about language.
As a French speaker I know the meaning of the word ‘sportive‘ in its original sense, as a feminine adjective which translates into English as ‘sporty‘ or ‘athletic‘. The masculine version is ‘sportif‘. Or at least I thought I did…
Here’s Google’s first English definition of the word:
Note the date at the bottom: ‘the late 16th century‘. Interesting… The second definition is more familiar:
Still no mention of French however but if we follow the link at the bottom – ‘shortened from cyclosportive‘…
…we begin to make a bit of progress.
Wikipedia clarifies why we have chosen ‘sportive’ over ‘sportif’:
But let’s go back to the original definitions provided by Google for the use of ‘sportive‘. They produce a useful frequency chart for the use of the word since the early 19th century:
We know that the word was in use from the ‘late 16th century‘ from the first definition above but presumably detailed records of usage are either not available or are chosen to be ignored by Google. The arrival of mass cycling events in the late 20th century rescued the word from its long decline. Interesting, no?
I’ve never taken part in a sportive. Perhaps I should get my nose out of the dictionary and start training…
(Photos from the Prudential Ride London website.)
In the comments, Frank Burns makes mention of the audax, itself a word worthy of a little research. Below is what Google has to say. For those scratching their heads, this is what Wikipedia has to say. I suppose the key difference between a sportive and an audax event is the length, both in terms of distance and time. The Transcontinental Race which, for very sad reasons, made it onto the pages of CyclingEurope.org at the weekend, is, I suppose an ‘ultra-audax’ event. Audacious indeed.