Word of the Month – Tenace

David Zapatka

This month’s Word of the Month is tenace, a word commonly used in the world’s best card game, bridge. Unlike what many may think, this word has nothing to do with the words “ten” and “ace” being combined to mean something special. However, an ace frequently plays a role in the meaning of this word while a ten occasionally plays a role in the meaning of this word.

Tenace – ˈte-ˌnās, te-ˈnās, ˈte-nəs Pronounced like the word “tennis.” In bridge, whist and similar card games, a pair of cards in one hand that rank immediately above and below a card held by an opponent, e.g., the ace and queen in a suit of which an opponent holds the king.

An ace/queen combination is considered to be a major tenace where king/jack and queen/ten combinations are considered minor tenaces.

If you are a major league baseball fan, you may have thought of the famous Oakland A’s catcher, Gene Tenace, the 1972 World Series MVP. Gene Tenace, an Italian-American, was drafted out of Valley High School in Lucasville, OH in 1965 by the Kansas City Athletics who subsequently moved to Oakland, CA.

It’s interesting to contemplate the origin of the word “tenace” from the Spanish word “tenaza” and the Latin word “tenacia” both meaning pliers, pincers, tongs or claw. With these origins in mind you can see where the card combinations illustrated above act like pliers or pincers grabbing a king between an ace and queen or a jack between a queen and 10. How interesting is it that Gene Tenace grew up to be a major league catcher who pinches or traps a ball in his mitt manifesting his name in his occupation?

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