Mastering Bowling Slang

Bowlers who are starting to play on a professional level may hear a variety of slang words while on the lanes. Like many sports, bowling has a unique set of lingo with words that offer distinct meanings for the game itself, as well as names for different types of bowling equipment. Learn some of these popular words and catch phrases so you can start talking like a bowling pro.

Names for Equipment or Lane Features

The slang below refers to different areas of the bowling alley, or equipment you might find there.

Bowling Ball Terminology

  • Span: This basic term describes the distance between the thumb and finger holes on a bowling ball.
  • Weight Block: The center of every bowling ball, whether beginner or regulation, is comprised of a weight block to evenly distribute weight throughout the ball.
  • Balance Hole: Balls with too much side weight often have “balance holes” added to even things out. Balls with too much side weight tend to hook more than regular bowling balls.

The Lane

  • Pocket: Each time you bowl, the area where your ball will land is called the pocket. For right-handed bowlers, it is the 1-3 pins, for left handed bowlers, it is the 1-2 pins.
  • Pin Deck and Pit: Pin deck refers to the end of the lane where the pins are lined up, and the pit is where the pins return to be sorted and re-structured by pinsetters.
  • Out of Bounds: This phrase is used in other sports; however, in bowling it refers to the area of the lane where the ball will not hook due to lane oil build-up in that spot.
  • Back Ends: The last fifteen to twenty feet of the lane is referred to as “back ends.” Most bowling alleys do not oil the back end, so there’s more friction for hooking the ball.

Pins and Arrangement

  • Messenger: A messenger pin is one that deflects off the side wall of the pin deck and bounces back to hit leftover pins. This usually occurs when your bowling ball is delivered with many revolutions.
  • Sleeper: Usually you can’t see this pin, as it’s set up behind another pin. Examples of sleepers are the 2:9 and 3:8 pins, with the 8 and 9 pins labeled the sleepers.

Slang Terms for Technique

These words and phrases are used to describe different types of bowling techniques used throughout a game:

  • High Shot: This term refers to when a ball misses the pocket and goes straight through the head pin.
  • Sandbagging: The process of bowling poorly early in a game to earn a low average with higher handicap.
  • Fast Eight: When a bowler bowls a fast eight, it means they’ve gone high in the pocket and left the 4:9 pins (for right-handed bowlers) or the 6:8 pins (for lefties).
  • Cranker: Bowlers who throw with a lot of revolutions.
  • Tweener: Similar to a cranker, but with less hook and ball revolutions.

Names for Scoring

There are many terms surrounding the process of bowling several strikes or spares in a row:

  • Turkey: When a player bowls three strikes in a row.
  • Ham Bone: Four strikes bowled in a row are called a ham bone.
  • 5 Bagger: Five strikes bowled in a row are referred to by many names, including 5 Bagger, Yahtzee, or Dropping the Nickel.
  • Dutch 200: Somewhat rare, this term refers to a bowler who alternates between strikes and spares in patterns through an entire game.

For more tips to improve your game, or info on starting a home bowling alley so you can practice your technique at any time, check the Murrey Bowling blog each week. We can also be reached by calling (310) 532-6091.

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