The American-English phrase behind the eight ball way in trouble or at a disadvantage.
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The terms eight ball and eight rock denote the black color ball, numbered eight, in the North-American variety of pool, and, through extension, this variety of pool.
(This selection of pool uses two sets of seven coloured or patterned balls, together with one black ball and one white cue ball, the aim being to pocket all of one’s own balls adhered to by the black.)
Both eight ball and eight rock have involved be additionally used derogatorily and offensively to signify a black color person—as illustrated by the following from the Jackson day-to-day News (Jackson, Mississippi) of Monday 27th November 1911:
It is a fine known truth that the colored populace resents, together a rule, words “nigger” being applied to them, however the height of your resentment is reached as soon as the hatchet “black nigger” is applied, especially if it comes from one that their own race.At a current trial before Judge Manship a big black African called John Adams to be arraigned prior to the court on a charge of assaulting will Harris, a gingercake “complected pusson,” through beating him end the head with a billiard cue, lot to its damage (the cue, the course).<…>“What language go he usage that so aroused your ire?” queried the judge.<…>“Jedge, ah jest natur’ly hates ter use sich lan’widge in dis yere cote, however he—he—called me a eight rock.”“An eight rock! what in the name of the 7 Sunderland Sisters perform you mean?”“Why, jedge, ain’t girlfriend neveh played swimming pool wed strip an’ colored balls? De eight rock, jedge, is de black ball.”“Well of all the—how black color is the eight ball, anyhow?”“Hits blacker dan a black color cat in a dark cellar at midnight.”
The earliest occurrence of the phrase behind the eight ball that i have uncovered is from one of the unconnected paragraphs consisting of the shaft On the Fence, published in The daily Hammer—itself published in the Buffalo evening Times (Buffalo, brand-new York) that Tuesday 25th September 1923:
If Charley Heinz doesn’t stop buying share he may wind increase behind the eight ball.
The second-earliest occurrence that ns have found is native the tower On “the Trail” the Sport, published in the Hamilton evening Journal (Hamilton, Ohio) that Thursday 19th august 1926:
The Phillies finished their season up “behind the eight ball,” as the vulgar speak goes. The Quakers won 2 of 11 games played. The series total currently stands 15 come 4 in favor of Cincinnati.
The expression then wake up in the pillar Runyon Says, by Damon Runyon, published in The night News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) the Monday 18th October 1926:
Herrera to be a significant hitter for a tiny man. He was a featherweight, and he gave destructive Terry McGovern among the hardest battles of his career. Yet Herrera was no hand because that training, and he wound up behind the eight ball, as the guys say.
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The phrase behind the eight ball describes a position in a video game of pool in i beg your pardon a player cannot make a straight shot at the target ball since the black color eight round obstructs the cue ball—as defined by Harold Hadley in Behind The Eight Ball, a short story released in the Daily News (New York City, N.Y.) of Wednesday 4th December 1929:
“Time because that a game of salary ball,” said Tommy. “Fifty cents a ball. I’ll take it the six and also ten, you take the five and nine. Every right?”“Sure,” claimed James. “It’s a bet.”They played. Conveniently the balls were operation down to the five, and also Tommy’s last shot let go James’ 5 ball. If he sank this one, i m sorry stopped close to a pocket, James to be to victory 50 cents. But when he set his cue in between his thumb and fingers and also took target he observed a black color ball between the cue ball and also the five. He was behind the eight ball, and on the bank shot, that missed, Tommy sinking the five.Ironically enough, once he to be shooting at Tommy’s ball, again the eight sphere was in the way, a kind of pool stymie.James cursed and missed a bank shot. Therefore the game went; as soon as he to be shooting because that money, he to be behind the eight ball.
Illustration for Behind The Eight Ball—Daily News (New York City, N.Y.)—4th December 1929: