The Origins of Three Score Furlongs
Three score furlongs – it’s a phrase that seems to have come out of nowhere, a strange combination of words that doesn’t make much sense. But if you delve deeper into the history of the English language, you’ll find that this phrase has been around for centuries, with a rich and fascinating backstory. The term “three score” simply means “three times twenty,” or sixty. This was a common way to count in the past, when people used a base-20 numbering system instead of the base-10 system we use today. And “furlong” refers to a unit of measurement used in horse racing and agriculture, equivalent to one-eighth of a mile. So when you put these two words together, you get “three score furlongs” – a distance of sixty furlongs, or seven and a half miles. But why did this particular distance become so famous?
The Legacy of Three Score Furlongs
One theory is that three score furlongs was the distance of a famous horse race in England, which took place in the early 1700s. The race was known as the “Royal Plate” and was run over the distance of seven and a half miles. It was considered one of the most prestigious races of its time, and winning it was a great honor. But over time, the phrase “three score furlongs” began to take on a life of its own. It became a shorthand way of referring to a long distance, often used in literature and poetry. For example, in John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost,” the demon Beelzebub is said to have flown “three flights of three-score miles and upward.” And in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” Long John Silver describes a journey of “three-score mile and ten.”
The Meaning of Three Score Furlongs Today
Today, the phrase “three score furlongs” is not often used in everyday conversation. It’s more of a literary and historical reference, a nod to a bygone era when horse racing and long-distance travel were more common. But it still holds a certain mystique, a sense of adventure and exploration that captures the imagination. Perhaps that’s why it continues to appear in popular culture, from the title of a 1974 album by British rock band Stackridge to the name of a 2019 novel by author Will Davenport. And who knows – maybe someday, someone will run a race of three score furlongs again, and the phrase will once again become part of our everyday vocabulary.
The Fascinating World of Horse Racing
While three score furlongs may no longer be a common term, horse racing is still a popular sport around the world. From the Kentucky Derby to the Royal Ascot, people gather to watch these magnificent creatures run and compete. But horse racing is more than just a sport – it’s a culture, with its own traditions, language, and history. And while the sport has faced its share of controversies over the years, it remains a beloved pastime for many. Whether you’re a seasoned fan or a newcomer, there’s always something new to learn about horse racing. From the jockeys to the trainers to the horses themselves, there are countless stories of triumph and tragedy, of perseverance and dedication. So the next time you hear the phrase “three score furlongs,” take a moment to appreciate the rich history and culture that it represents. And who knows – maybe you’ll be inspired to learn more about the fascinating world of horse racing.