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Confusing words 5


BARTEK: Would you like a game of billiard?

TERRY: Billiards? I didn’t know you play that game in Poland.

BARTEK: It’s very popular. Look, there’s an empty table over there.

TERRY: That’s a pool table.


And just to add to the problem, I saw this in a shop in Poland:


First of all, both Bartek and Terry are right; billiards is an umbrella term – a name used to describe all sports that involve using a stick called a cue, and is used to strike billiard balls, making them move around a cloth-covered table. However, in the UK, billiards is treated as a separate game to the more universally recognised snooker and pool, which are different cue sports and are not referred to as billiard sports.


The picture, however, is wrong. What is not displayed is the cue sport of snooker; it is clearly Pool. However, if it said ‘All-star Billiards’, then it would be correct as it would be using the umbrella name used for all cue sports. And all that sounds confusing as it is.

(I think there's another mistake in the picture, but this is open to interpretation. It says 'Goal! Collect them and play!'. Now in all cue sports you score points, but it would sound strange if you want to shout 'points', but more natural to shout 'goal'. Of course, 'goal' here may well mean 'target to get' as it adds 'collect them and play', and the company that makes this desktop game makes other desktop games, and so you may have a goal - or target - of buying all the desktop games this company markets.)

So let’s sort out what each version of 'billiards' is:


That’s the game where there are 15 balls, plus a white ‘cue’ ball (the ball you hit to try and hit another ball) that are either ‘stripes’ or ‘solids’. These balls also have numbers on them, although I’ve never learnt how to play that version of the game.



This is a game that is becoming increasingly popular in Europe. It consists of 15 red balls, 6 colour balls (yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black) and the white cue ball. Each player starts by playing a red ball, followed by a colour, and then red again. Reds are worth one point, the colours range from yellow (2 points) to black (7 points).



This game, which is played on a snooker table (which is bigger than a pool table) involves using two cue balls (originally both white, with one marked e.g. with a black dot, but can be just yellow) and a red ball. Each player uses a different cue ball. Points are scored for cannons (hitting the cue ball onto one of the other two balls, and that ball hitting the other ball as a result) and pocketing the balls.

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