There aren’t many expressions that have their origins in board games, but “to turn the tables” on someone—meaning to change someone’s fortunes—comes from exactly that source.
Unless you’re Bugs Bunny or playing someone who really isn’t paying attention, when it comes to literally turning the table or the board to switch positions with your opponent, this strategy won’t work; however the concept of “turning the tables” has been around since the 17th century according to the OED.
Popular 17th century board games included:
- Draughts (Checkers)
- Fox and Geese
How often people successfully turned the tables with these games, I have no idea.
Gaming trivia is almost as fascinating as language trivia, actually. Did you know that people have been playing board games for at least 5,000 years? Ancient boards, dice, and counters have been found in Sumer (Iraq) that date back to roughly 3,000 B.C.E. The oldest known complete game ever found is known as The Royal Game of Ur.
There are no dice or tables to turn when it comes to Grammartopia, but it’s good to be a part of the social gaming tradition. As for you, next time you’re sitting down to a friendly board game, you’ll now have some trivia to share.
Happy gaming (and writing), folks!
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