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Slices of Life: Pickleball Part 2 — observations from a cucumber

I did it. 

I dove into the jar, or better put, the Pickleball court. The sport itself has nothing to do with pickle jars; it actually takes place on a mini-court, similar to the type used for tennis, just more manageable for those looking to avoid running, diving, dodging, lunging, jumping and backing up.

Especially backing up.

No one in Pickleball wants to back up, because that can lead to loss of balance, which in turn can lead to falls. Falling is never a joke, but it’s especially not funny in Pickleball, where falls can lead to twisted ankles, bumped bums and other injuries too serious to name here.

In Pickleball (at least in my neighborhood) the serious ballers are ranked numerically from two to five, because starting out as a two sounds and feels so much better than a one.

A level five is a professional pickler, full of spit and vinegar — skilled to his or her greatest potential after many hours spent on the court and in the brine, so to speak. A level two is a cucumber, not yet wrinkled or salty, but possessing growth potential and promise yet to be recognized.

By my own admission, I started the game as a double zero. By day two or three, I was a negative one. I couldn’t even call myself a cucumber, much less a gherkin.

I hit a lot of shots that didn’t make their mark. In Pickleball, this is known as a falafel. My falafels were awful, and they put my game in a pickle. You can’t score if you can’t land your serve. I was in danger of being pickled, before ever leaving the vine.

But I digress — in more ways than one.

What I really want to bring to light about the newest, biggest, bestest sport of the 21st century is rather, well, salacious — at least in its terminology.

Turns out the newest sport might have ties to the oldest sport — if you catch my drift.

Or maybe my mind’s just in the gutter.

Either way, follow me on this convoluted Pickleball journey, and let’s have some fun.

Like most sports, Pickleball starts with a warm-up, which consists of sharing dinks with your opponent. This is known (obviously) as dinking and consists of short lobs back and forth over the net. 

Once regular dinks have been achieved, players may opt for an advanced version known as dinkling, which is simply diagonal dinking — nothing improper, it just sounds that way.

As does the next example. 

When someone hits the ball hard in your direction, they are known as a banger and it’s said that you are getting banged — by the ball, of course, but it’s hard to not let your mind wander elsewhere.

I’ve been a widow for three years, and never thought I’d get banged on the Pickleball court. But that happened just last week. And, I’ll answer the obvious question before you even get the chance to think it: I did not successfully return the bang. Maybe next time.

One can only hope.

I don’t know all the Pickleball terminology yet; I’m still a newbie. But being a word lover, I’ve come up with a term of my own: The dilly.

This sweet term isn’t as tasty as the DQ delight, but instead is an extra special serve that that lands just inside the outside corner and is practically unreturnable, unless your player level is that of a 4.5 or above, at which point the return itself has its own name: the buster bar.

These picklicious meanderings may all seem fun and even a little bit silly, but there’s nothing silly about a sport that’s seen a more than 200 percent growth rate over the last three years, with 36.5 million pickleball players currently in the U.S. Pickleball’s immense popularity has made it the fastest growing sport in the country.

It’s getting people of all ages up and off the couch and into the court, and that’s a good thing. So at the end of the day — or match or game — I think we can all agree on one thing.

Pickleball is a big dill.

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

— Jill Pertler’s column Slices of Life appears regularly in the Times. She can be reached at