It's supposed to be balmy and sorta-kinda sunny in Seattle this weekend (spring!)—a perfect time to dust off your badminton rackets, buy a bottle of dry rose, and hit the park.
Here, for your weekend inspiration, is a video of Korean player Lee Yong-dae smashing a shuttlecock so hard that it flies through the air and cracks open a watermelon on the other side of the court.
Shuttlecocks weigh approximately five grams—about as much as a teaspoon of baking powder.
The origins of shuttlecock games, as regular readers of The Stranger already know, are a little mysterious:
Historians and archeologists have found evidence of them—pieces of cork, wood, or corn husks with feathers sticking out from behind—all over the world. According to Chinese historians, the ancient game of jianzi—a cross between badminton and hacky sack, where players hit the shuttlecock with their feet—came from an old military training exercise. During the Han Dynasty, jianzi spread to Taiwan, Korea, and Vietnam. In 1508, Vietnamese poet Nguyen Gian Thanh described a lively street scene in Hanoi where "young men tuck up their tunics and play shirtless shuttlecock." Badminton historian Jean-Yves Guillain describes coming across a similar game in Malaysia called chap-teh that used hibiscus flowers instead of feathers.
People were playing shuttlecock games in North America, too—in 1903, anthropologist Matilda Coxe Stevenson described a Zuni game in New Mexico called po'kinanane, "so named," she wrote, "because the sound produced by the shuttlecock coming in contact with the palm of the hand is similar to the noise of the tread of a jack rabbit upon frozen snow.
But the name "badminton" comes from an English estate where the Dukes of Beaufort have been leisure-crazy for centuries. An account from the 1600s describes their "pompous stables" and diversions after breakfast ("perhaps a deer was to be killed"), and the Beauforts' fondness for "battledore and shuttlecock" was legendary. In 1830, they supposedly broke a record with 2,117 hits in a single rally.
The "battledore" game they were playing that day wasn't competitive—the point of the game was to keep the shuttlecock in the air, not to smack it down. (A few decades later, the Beauforts of Badminton got with the competitive program when colonial officers brought the Indian version back from their tours in the British Raj.)
Supposedly, the longest women's rally was in a doubles game (115 shots, or so they say), but the video quality isn't quite as good:
It's the time of the season for minting!