Dark Horse

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament began yesterday. This is one of my favorite times of the year (more on this tomorrow).

This is also a time when we will hear many odd descriptions of the participating schools. We will read about universities that are considered sleepers, Cinderella stories and dark horse teams.

We know the story of Cinderella, and we can guess at what a sleeper might be, but what about the dark horse?

It very rarely describes a team whose mascot is actually a horse. This year the only teams in the tournament with a horse mascot are the Western Michigan Broncos & the Cal Poly Mustangs.

Instead of referring to the mascot, a dark horse is defined as “a usually little known contender that makes an unexpectedly good showing.”

At one point were all dark colored horses not considered good at contests? Sounds like horse racial profiling to me. Where did that term come from? Let’s find out…

Wonder Why Wednesday: Where Does the Term Dark Horse Come From?

According to Wikipedia, the term originated in the 1831 novel The Young Duke written by Benjamin Disraeli. The story’s protagonist, the Duke of St. James witnesses a horse race with a surprise finish. The story says, “A dark horse which had never been thought of, and which careless St. James had never even observed in the list, rushed past the grandstand in sweeping triumph.”

If you are like me, you are probably wondering if there is more to that story. What else happened with the dark horse? Was it involved in the rest of the book?

I am sure The Young Duke is a great story, but how did that little sentence create a phrase that has lasted nearly 200 years? The sentence didn’t even have much description. We don’t get much of a visual of the horse. He just called it a dark horse. Not a “pitch black mustang” or an “amber brown Arabian. I wrote a book that had sentences without much description. Makes me wonder what line from Maury C. Moose and The Forest Noel will create a phrase that people will still be saying in 2314.

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