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Henmania

noun [uncountable]

the condition of being a very enthusiastic supporter of the British tennis player Tim Henman

Henmaniac

adjective, noun [countable]

'"It's a bit of a worry," she said. "There's so much Henmania. If he doesn't win, the tournament gets devalued. He should be considered a wonderful tennis player. Wimbledon is not only about Tim Henman winning."'

Virginia Wade, as featured in The Guardian 30th June 2003

Henmania is a phenomenon that has been gripping the British public annually in recent years as the British number one tennis player, Tim Henman, attempts to win the famous championships at the Wimbledon tennis club. The area of the club where fans without show court tickets gather to watch their hero on a giant TV screen has come to be known as Henman Hill, also referred to as Rusedski Ridge when the British men's number two Greg Rusedski is on court.

the advent of a long-awaited champion and intense media speculation have established the term Henmania as an annual feature in the English language in the summers of recent years

Tim Henman was born in 1974 in Oxfordshire, and at the age of five had already decided he wanted to be a tennis player. In 1992 he became National Junior Champion in both singles and doubles and rose steadily through the rankings in subsequent years, becoming the British number one in 1996. The term Henmania was coined in the same year, when Tim reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals, the first British man to do so since Roger Taylor in 1973. It is sixty-seven years since Britain had a men's singles champion; Fred Perry was the last to win the Wimbledon title in 1936, before the Second World War. The advent of a long-awaited champion and intense media speculation have established the term Henmania as an annual feature in the English language in the summers of recent years, with headlines such as these dominating the media in June and July:

"Henmania runs wild in England …"
"Henmania hits/strikes Wimbledon …"
"a fresh outbreak of Henmania …"

The term Henmaniac quickly followed Henmania as a description of someone 'suffering' from the condition, used as a countable noun or an adjective. We can also find evidence for the term anti-Henmania and related adjective/noun anti-Henmaniac during the last couple of years, as various letters to the media have expressed contempt for the condition, equating it with 'loutish behaviour'.

Background – Henmania

The noun mania is used both in the contexts of mental illness and very strong enthusiasm for something, and in its latter use often has rather disapproving overtones, suggesting that something fills a person's mind so that they have little time for anything else. It has established use as a suffix, featuring in terms for mental conditions like kleptomania (stealing) and pyromania (starting fires). Another classic example of its use with people in the public eye is the term Beatlemania, a phenomenon which swept through Britain in the 1960s with the overwhelming popularity of the Liverpool band.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 4th July 2003.

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