bait and tackle

A coordination of two nouns, conventionally paired in bait & tackle shop, referring to a store that provides supplies for sport fishermen. Like this place in Benicia CA:


And elaborately played on in the Bizarro  from December 23rd:

(#2) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 9 in this strip — see this Page.)

The sign appears to offer bait and tackle as above, but instead offers free beer as an enticement or allurement, so that a football player — presumably, a tackle — can execute a tackle. The noun bait is relatively uncomplicated lexicographically, but the noun tackle is something of tangled forest.

The bait. From NOAD:

noun bait: 1 [a] food used to entice fish or other animals as prey: herrings make excellent bait for pike | fishing with live baits. [b, a metaphorical extension] an allurement; a thing intended to tempt or entice: many potential buyers are reluctant to take the bait | she used the prospect of freedom as bait to trap him into talking.

Sense a is the one in the conventional bait & tackle shop, sense b in the cartoon.

(The noun has also been verbed, in several senses.)

The tackle. It starts with the noun tackle of bait & tackle shop. From NOAD:

noun tackle: 1 the equipment required for a task or sport: fishing tackle. [the sense in bait & tackle shop, which is newer than the following senses] 2 [a] a mechanism consisting of ropes, pulley blocks, hooks, or other things for lifting heavy objects. [b] the running rigging and gear used to work a boat’s sails. ORIGIN Middle English (denoting equipment for a specific task): probably from Middle Low German takel, from taken ‘lay hold of’. Early senses of the verb (late Middle English) described the provision and handling of a ship’s equipment.

This noun tackle, referring to the rigging of a ship, was then verbed, and the verb went through a series of metaphorical extensions, eventually leading to this set of senses, from OED2:

4. colloq.
a. To grip, lay hold of, take in hand, deal with; to fasten upon, attack, encounter (a person or animal) physically. [1st cite 1828 in a dictionary]
b. To ‘come to grips with’, to enter into a discussion or argument with; to attack; to approach or question on some subject. [1st cite 1841]
c. To grapple with, to try to deal with (a task, a difficulty, etc.); to try to solve (a problem) [1st cite 1847]
5. (a) In Rugby Football and Amer. Football, To seize and stop (an opponent) when in possession of the ball.  (b) In Association Football, To obstruct (an opponent) with the object of getting the ball away from him.  (c) In other sports, to obstruct or accost (an opponent) in order to deprive him of the ball or other object of play. [1st cite 1884]

That sequence gets us to tackling in American football. At which point, the verb was nouned in sporting contexts. The rest of the NOAD entry for the verb:

3 [a] Soccer & Hockey (in soccer and other games) an act of taking the ball, or attempting to take the ball, from an opponent. [b] American Football & Rugby an act of seizing and stopping a player in possession of the ball by knocking them to the ground. 4 American Football a player who lines up inside the end along the line of scrimmage.

Got that? The noun tackle (probably itself a nouning of a Germanic verb) gets verbed, runs through a set of semantic changes that ends up in a sports verb tackle, and then that verb gets nouned. N to V to N again. Round and round the wheel goes, and where she stops, nobody knows.

I don’t think it’s happened, but the sports noun tackle could itself be verbed, say in the sense ‘to supply (a team) with a tackle’: Over the years, the Ohio State Buckeyes have been well place-kickered, half-backed, and tackled.

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