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Matt:

Since everybody’s all hopped up on football these days, here’s a question for you. Why is a football called a pigskin? Is it/was it ever made of pigskin? What’s the story?

— Wes, San Diego

Well, the word nerds have a tale to tell about this. But I’m not sure I completely buy it. Some word-origin experts avoid the subject completely. The story goes, American football came from British games, specifically rugby, in which a ball (or ball substitute) was forced across the opponents’ goal line by whatever means available. But in those days, the early 1800s, what substituted for a ball was an inflated pig’s bladder. But by the time American football began in the 1850s, bladders weren’t used anymore. So it’s kind of a stretch to think people were still referring to them as pigskins. But that’s the kind of answer we get when we ask the word wizards.

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