Gymnasts use chalk on all six aperatuses. It creates friction between the surfaces of the hands (or the feet, in the cases of floor and vault) and the aperatus, allowing gymnasts to perform their skills with a slightly smaller chance of killing themselves. It also acts as a buffer to some of the pain caused by swinging, balancing, supporting, and sliding on the hands alone, and it absorbs sweat.

Chalk is an intergral part of gymnastics, it's all over everything. High bar is impossible to do without chalk, rings is equally so. Pommels is a bit painful, and P-bars is pure torture. It's hard to stick a landing on vault and floor. The chalk used in the gym is not the same type as that used in the classroom. It comes in blocks which are broken up and crushed to form a chunky powder.

In any classroom anywhere that still uses blackboards, one can find a huge number of tiny chalk stubs that are at the end of their useful lives as writing implements. There comes a point when they are only a little longer than they are wide, and it takes a fair effort to use them without scraping one's fingernails on the board, which is unpleasant for everyone.

In an ordinary room in the Mathematics department of my university there is to be found a medium-sized cardboard box that contains hundreds upon hundreds of these little chalk stubs, so several times during a class there will be an exasperated search to find the biggest piece in there. The box must contain many dozens of sticks' weight in chalk, but most of them are barely usable. It's ridiculous, such a trivial thing that stands in our way.

Yesterday there were three full, unused sticks on the table, and it was taken to be divine providence, manna from the gods of mathematics. Today they were gone: stolen by opportunistic professors, ravaged and relegated to the chalk box with the rest, or maybe something far worse...

I wonder about that third option; perhaps someone in the department has a lifelong vendetta sworn against sticks of chalk, and exacts their unrestrained revenge upon them. Perhaps they experienced some chalk-related childhood trauma; perhaps their parents were killed in a chalk factory explosion, or their painstakingly composed chalk drawings on the pavement were washed away one fateful night, and they knew that their heart could never be broken so badly again. Either way, I imagine some well-groomed young intellectual roaming the halls, seemingly a fine young gentleman; but when he spies a full piece of chalk sitting on a table somewhere, his demeanour changes and he is an unstoppable force of vindication, crushing the stick with his bare hands amid tears and wailing.
Or maybe not.

I had a thought, though: chalk should be able to be melted, so that it can be re-formed into a proper stick again. If one could put some chalk stubs in a little saucepan on the stove, wait a few minutes, and then pour the liquid chalk into a mould, then we would be spared the terrible fate of being neither with nor without chalk. I know that chalk is traditionally made from a sedimentary rock, and so has an extremely high melting point, but surely if we, with our science, can make bacon in a squeeze-bottle then we can make artificial chalk that I can melt at home?

Chalk (?), n. [AS. cealc lime, from L. calx limestone. See Calz, and Cawk.]

1. Min.

A soft, earthy substance, of a white, grayish, or yellowish white color, consisting of calcium carbonate, and having the same composition as common limestone.

2. Fine Arts

Finely prepared chalk, used as a drawing implement; also, by extension, a compound, as of clay and black lead, or the like, used in the same manner. See Crayon.

Black chalk, a mineral of a bluish color, of a slaty texture, and soiling the fingers when handled; a variety of argillaceous slate. -- By a long chalk, by a long way; by many degrees. [Slang] Lowell. -- Chalk drawing Fine Arts, a drawing made with crayons. See Crayon. -- Chalk formation. See Cretaceous formation, under Cretaceous. -- Chalk line, a cord rubbed with chalk, used for making straight lines on boards or other material, as a guide in cutting or in arranging work. -- Chalk mixture, a preparation of chalk, cinnamon, and sugar in gum water, much used in diarrheal affection, esp. of infants. -- Chalk period. Geol. See Cretaceous period, under Cretaceous. -- Chalk pit, a pit in which chalk is dug. -- Drawing chalk. See Crayon, n., 1. -- French chalk, steatite or soapstone, a soft magnesian mineral. -- Red chalk, an indurated clayey ocher containing iron, and used by painters and artificers; reddle.


© Webster 1913.

Chalk, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Chalked (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Chalking.]


To rub or mark with chalk.


To manure with chalk, as land.



To make white, as with chalk; to make pale; to bleach.


Let a bleak paleness chalk the door. Herbert.

To chalk out, to sketch with, or as with, chalk; to outline; to indicate; to plan. [Colloq.] "I shall pursue the plan I have chalked out."



© Webster 1913.

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