Cannon (billiards)

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In billiards, a game for two, played on a table with cues and three balls, a cannon is a shot in which the cue ball (that struck by a player's cue, either white or spot) strikes the opponent's cue ball and the red ball, in either order, in the same shot. This stroke is worth two points, and allows the same player to continue. As a result, skillful players can amass considerable scores without ever potting a ball (knocking it into a pocket of the table). Thus the verb 'to cannon' means 'to bounce from one object to another', as a person running blindly down a corridor may cannon from one wall to the other - sometimes repeatedly.

The interest of the term cannon to AWE lies in the fact that the word is a corruption of the original term. This was a Spanish or Portuguese noun carambola, which gave rise to the earliest form recorded by OED, in 1775, a carom or carrom. This word has developed a more general meaning, particularly in American English, where it means 'to bounce [off something]', 'to rebound', 'to glance [off]'. In the USA, where there are varieties of billiards known as carom billiards, played on tables without pockets, the older spelling carom is used more often than in Britain. In Britain, its use is mostly figurative, and is often regarded as an Americanization. A car, both in Britain and the USA, for example, can carom off a telegraph pole into a ditch; a ball carelessly thrown can carom off a wall into a window.
Carom, either as noun or verb, is pronounced with the stress on the first syllable: 'CARR-em', IPA: /'kæ rəm/.

You may also want to see a note on cannon, or another on the confusion between careen and career, with which carom can be confused.