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Medalling in the language of sports journalism

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Roger Mosey | 09:56 UK time, Thursday, 26 August 2010

Here's a sentence you could well hear in the run-up to London 2012:

"Smith is certain to medal after he top-scored in the first round."

But it's the kind of use of language that prompted a letter this week from a former BBC News reporter Michael Cole, whose plea is a simple one. Sport, he writes, shouldn't give anyone "a licence to inflict cruelty upon the English language"; and if we maintain standards then "the enjoyment of the Olympics will be enhanced for millions of people."

Michael cites a couple of examples of what he dislikes:

"Is Radcliffe going to medal?" is, in his view, "not only tortuous but it sounds as if it might be rude".

And the use of "lap" inappropriately in swimming amounts to "slavish copying of ignorant American terminology. Swimmers swim lengths, not laps. Anyone speaking of 'laps' in the swimming pool should have his or her microphone confiscated."

Rebecca Adlington shows off her two gold medals from the 2008 Olympics'To medal' or not 'to medal'?

My personal view is, whatever you think about the individual examples, I'm with Michael in spirit. I realise I'm running the risk of sounding like a candidate for Grumpy Old Men. But good use of language should be the hallmark of sports journalism and commentary just as it is for all broadcasting.

The sentence I quoted near the top is much easier on the ear if you say "Smith is certain to win a medal after he was top scorer in the first round". According to the online Oxford English Dictionary "medal" can be a verb - but it's one of those Americanisms that's crept across the Atlantic.

Even that, though, is some miles better than a horror I heard in a programme last weekend. It was an interview asking who was going "to podium" in a sport event - which I take it to mean who was going to finish in the top three. The OED doesn't accept "podium" as a verb so it's certainly not established use; and it seems ugly and unnecessary.

Now, in a phone chat with Michael Cole we agreed that English is a language that always changes and its beauty is in the fact it's never static. But Michael's closing paragraph in his letter is a powerful one: "As Stratford is the only Olympic venue mentioned in Chaucer, I think you must respect our beloved language. Please, tell your people to speak effectively - not for effect."

So what do you think? Is it only old fogeys who wince at "to podium" and "to medal", and does it matter if we adopt more American sporting language like "two-time winner"? If you have pet hates, let us know; and we'll try to make sure the offenders don't podium in 2012.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I don't know whether being 40 in a few months makes me an old fogey yet - my wife would almost certainly nod at this point! - but I'm with Michael Cole on this. Yes, the English language is constantly evolving, but to shoehorn Americanisms into the BBC's coverage is just plain wrong.

  • Comment number 2.

    To medal? Never heard that before and I really dislike it. Same with to podium. Two-time winner is fine and I struggle to see the issue with that one; it's entirely correct (assuming said person was a two-time winner) and conveys potentially useful information.

    When it comes to things like laps, I'm on the fence. It doesn't sound unpleasant and no meaning is lost with the choice of phrase, though its technically wrong. Given time, I can see that one simply being adopted. I don't think that's a particuarly scary thought.

  • Comment number 3.

    I agree to a certain extent, "to medal" I don't have a problem with. But "to podium"? to my ears that doesn't make sense, so I seem to agree with the Oxford Dictionary on that. Though his hyperbole to describe his reactions were very impressive!

    With a few of the americanisms that has crept across, they're not all bad otherwise they wouldn't of stuck! As long at the BBC don';t use LOL, OMG, ROFL, OTT to describe the action I think I will always be happy with the standard of English the BBC uses in the journalism

  • Comment number 4.

    If your profession is to talk and write, then you should do so properly.! Other professions do not take short-cuts.

  • Comment number 5.

    Luckily, I think we have a bit of a way to go before we become totally Americanised - words like "winningist", anyone ?

    My personal bete noire is "SW19" as an alternative for Wimbledon. I have been querying its use for a few years now, and it seems to have mostly disappeared from the BBC's vocabulary. Mind you, that might be a useful idea to keep all those visiting foreigners away in 2012 - refer to all the venues by their postcodes only, so the rowing will be at SL6 , sailing at DT4, soccer heats at B6 and M16 ......

  • Comment number 6.

    Shows how far Tiger Woods has fallen when he's no longer the 'winningest' player on tour! U just gotsta love the the good ole' U.S.A

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    I'd rather 'to medal' wasn't used, but I've got used to it through repetition, the same with 'top-scored'. 'To podium' just sounds awkward and wrong though. I'm 23 if anyone's doing analysis!

    To me, 'lap' suggests a return to your starting point, ie two lengths, so I guess I'd rather hear 'lengths' in relation to swimming.

    All in all, I'll take the odd Americanism in return for top-notch coverage that's gramatically correct. Hope the BBC can 'step up to the plate' and 'pull something out of the locker'

  • Comment number 9.

    I don't particularly like it but thats only because we are all so averse to change. Nouns have been "verbalised" (to coin an expression I heard recently!) forever. eg.... to exit a motorway, to hammer a nail in etc.... It's part of the living organism that is langauage and we all have to roll with the punches or get left behind!

  • Comment number 10.

    Medal as a verb - it's even more annoying than "stretchered off" which is sadly in common use in football journalese. As for podium as a verb, that's just silly.

    On lap, though, what would you say if Rebecca Adlington, for example, swam far faster than one of her rivals and passed her by because she'd gone two more lengths? What I would give to hear Bob Ballard say 'And Adlington looks to have lengthed the Australian' and keep a straight face.

  • Comment number 11.

    The day I use the phrase 'to medal', I'll food my hat!

  • Comment number 12.

    My apologies if this appears several times, but the page is telling me I've already written this comment when trying to submit it the first time!
    The day I use the phrase 'to medal', I'll food my hat!

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm with Michael Cole on this. My pet hate? "It's a big/tough/massive ask" grates every time I hear it. Whatever the dictionary may say, 'ask' is a verb in my book.

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm also with Michael Cole. My pet hate? "It's a big/tough/massive ask" grates every time I hear it. Whatever the dictionary may say, 'ask' is a verb in my book.

  • Comment number 16.

    The day I use 'to medal', I'll food my hat!

  • Comment number 17.

    There are so many phrases that have crept into general usage that are really annoying... footballers are probably the worst and with so many commentators in that sport being ex-players, they use them too. Drives you round the bend at times.

  • Comment number 18.

    I'm 37 - Cole is absolutely right. Correct me if I'm wrong but is not the BBC's role to inform, educate and ... (forgotten the last one)? It should therefore be setting the bar as high as possible (to use a sporting analogy) not dropping to the lowest common denominator. Language does have to develop, but that should not be an excuse for adopting either words or the use of words in an incorrect manner. We should look to the beeb for sound journalistic and grammatical standards. Carry on !

  • Comment number 19.

    Im only 17 n i agree that they should speak properly

  • Comment number 20.

    I,m with Cole! pleaseinclude:'ahead of' and 'anytime soon' in list of 'appalling americanisms'. Our young need this protection, the beeb is uniquely placed to offer such.

  • Comment number 21.

    I dislike the use of "Grand Slam" to mean "one of the tournaments that makes up the Grand Slam": as in, Federer has won however-many Grand Slams. No, he hasn't. The Slam is when you win all of them in one year.

    (I think it comes from bridge, where if you win all 13 tricks it's a Grand Slam, and if you win all except one it's a Small Slam. The Small Slam could be a useful concept in men's tennis, because unlike the Grand Slam it probably happens occasionally.)

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    Definitely with Michael on this. Language is very important in education and information and as a flagship in this area, the BBC should always use 'proper' English not this mythical 'US English' as the world would have us believe actually exists.
    On that note, I still have a gripe with the BBC about their use of the word Argentine; when I was at school 'The Argentine' was the region of Argentina including its islands and an Argentinian was a person from The Argentine. I know that if a word gets used 'X' many times it appears in the dictionary, but it still seems wrong to let standards slide this way, especially for the BBC.

  • Comment number 24.

    To medal?
    Might as well just say Alaistair Cook is in a strong position "to hundred"...

  • Comment number 25.

    The beauty of English as a language is that it is malleable, it is possible to get a point across without using strict rules, unless enforced by one that is rigid. The reason language developed is so that one can communicate and people should be able communicate as they wish. Surely if everyone understands what is communicated it should not matter much how it is put across. Sometimes emotion and feeling can be delivered much better if language is changed instead of being boxed up.

  • Comment number 26.

    It's the Great Britain Team. NOT Team GB!

  • Comment number 27.

    "Team GB"!

  • Comment number 28.

    My favourite is 'crashed out'. Sounds so much more dramatic than 'lost'.

  • Comment number 29.

    Re no 13, TheScarlettWarrior has three-peated himself/herself. Hopefully he or she wo'nt do it again.

  • Comment number 30.

    It's about time that the BBC (and other media) were taken to task for mangling the language in a puerile attempt to be "edgy".

    Pet hate one is "Yer Kevin Keegan's" and "yer Alan Shearer's" (or any other footballer under discussion). As far as I am aware no footballer has yet been cloned so they can only exist in the singular. Was John Motson the first to inflict this phraseology on us?

    Pet hate two is "the top of the hour" or "the top of the programme". Hours and programmes have a beginning and an end, not a top and a bottom. I blame the americans for this one.

  • Comment number 31.

    Now three-peated, I like that...it's in the hands of BBC.co.uk as to whether I three-peat again!

  • Comment number 32.

    Anyone else having this problem? The message 'You've already said this comment' keeps appearing every time I submit something. I won't be fooled again however. I ain't three-peating anything this time, so don't fret Gniarhhs!

  • Comment number 33.

    I am 22 and I find the use of such phrases as "to medal" and "to podium" horrendous. While I would never wish to denegrate the achievements of our fine sporting personnel this does seem to hav become a more prevalent part of broadcasting phraseology since we began the trend of employing ex-stars as opposed to recognised broadcasters to present such programmes.

    Maybe someone who has been trained as a broadcaster as opposed to an athlete may be able to present our language in a better way.

    Ex-stars have a place within commentary teams as colour commentators, but the main role of broadcaster or commentator should be given to a professional in that area asopposed to a professional in the area they are talking about.

  • Comment number 34.

    My personal opinion is that English should be used correctly by anyone who is in broadcasting (obviously not those being interviewed - footballers are notorious for their shocking use of language, 110% anyone?). This particularly applies to the commentators, who have an undeniable influence on the language we use, especially when we're young (I certainly learnt many new words and adopted quite a few phrases from watching television when I was younger). Granted I have an horrific dislike of 'text speak' and similar memes, but language is there to communicate, and having a set of common signifiers that relate to a specific signified is vital in maintaining a common language. I'm currently doing a Masters in English literature, if I get a single word wrong in a sentence it can change the entire meaning of it, and the use of slang would probably lose me marks. If I have to communicate properly, I don't see why the BBC shouldn't have to, especially as they have such an influence on the viewing public.
    I understand that our language does change, but I don't see why the commentators and broadcasters should be the ones to influence it. I'd certainly never heard 'to medal' until the phrase was mentioned on the BBC, and it now seems pervasive (or possibly my ears just prick up when I hear it, that's a decided possibility).
    I should add I'm 26, a long time to wait before I can classify myself as a 'grumpy old man'.

  • Comment number 35.

    Sorry about the dupliate comments, this is not the fault of the posters, but a bug in the system which is being investigates as a matter of urgency! Apologies for the annoyance.

  • Comment number 36.

    Thanks for a platform on this, Roger - couldn't have forgiven myself if I'd passed up this opportunity.....

    "To medal" is a horrid, forced construct of language and sounds absolutely dire. The BBC's audience, the ordinary British public, just don't speak like this! Nobody around the country is currently finishing up work at 5pm and preparing "to home", and perhaps "to food" on the way.

    The vocabulary of the English language evolves greatly, this is true. But the grammar? Not as malleable, I would contest. Michael Cole is absolutely right here, it's a sodding travesty.

    If I ruled the world, I would thrash any commentator or pundit who used the phrase "to medal" to within an inch of his/her life!

    "To podium" also sounds awful, yes. But as it's based on mangling the language in largely an identical way, I can't agree with your claim it's "some miles" worse.

    Both are lazy, awkward phrases that I'd only expect to hear from grandstanding hacks who do not possess the honest talent to communicate the same message using more accurate words. I hope this irritating fad passes by 2012..... Or is stamped out in the meantime by those in authority.....

    Hey, tell you what - the Commonwealth Games are taking place this autumn; how about you start the crackdown there?

  • Comment number 37.

    I hate it when pundits use a phrases like "it's up there with the Manchester Uniteds and Liverpools of this world" or "the Micheal Owens and David Beckhams of this world".

    I always end up shouting at the radio if that happens.

  • Comment number 38.

    I'm glad that M@x has had the opportunity to vent his spleen on this topic, but I'm not entirely convinced that the point he makes is coherent. The grammar of English may not be malleable, but using "to medal" doesn't require any change to the grammar, it merely requires "medal" to become a verb, which is a lexical development (and very typical of language change).
    I agree that "to medal" and, to a greater extent, "to podium" are inelegant usages, but this is purely a subjective, aesthetic judgement. The contention that these are ungrammatical, ignorant or inaccurate does not stand scrutiny, and the condemnation of the reporters who use these expressions (to offer a subjective judgement of my own) reflects badly on the person who issues it.

  • Comment number 39.

    Yeah, I don't think either are acceptable, personally. 'To medal' is a bit better than 'to podium', though.

  • Comment number 40.

    another one that really bothers me is the reference to an 'english' goal or an 'english' manager... it's the england goal or the england manager... the goal itself isn't actually english and in the case of the manager he is most certainly italian... for now!!

  • Comment number 41.

    What about 'sports' and 'orientated'? Drives me mad!!!

  • Comment number 42.

    It's a fair cop. I can't deny that my comment was mostly just taking an opportunity to vent my spleen, stwl. The phrases Roger refers to made me wince the first time I heard them and have done so every time thereafter. The carrot was just too much to resist.

    Elements of my post clearly border on hyperbole, but I'm sure you appreciate that. I wouldn't thrash anyone to within an inch of their lives if I ruled the world..... I'd be a benevolent dictator......

    Serious? Oh, okay: Perhaps I find myself on the wrong side of a technical point, regarding the difference between grammar/lexical issues. Fair enough - I stand corrected. But even if "to medal" and "to podium" aren't atypical of "legit" lexical development, those sorts of changes are rarely so aggressive and forced, are they? At least, rarely without meeting understandable consternation on the way.

    If every TV chef started using the phrase "to food" one summer, and told their viewers it's just the way things are in the 2010 vocabulary of cooking, those viewers would be forgiven for raising eyebrows (for they cook, and they "eat" - though they do not "food"; not yet, anyway). Would each nonetheless be using the phrase in their kitchen that evening? Perhaps. But perhaps they'd just think it sounds like nonsense.

    However: Whether that person begrudges another's God-given right to use whatever words they choose, or whether that person hopes for a certain amount of accessibility from their TV chefs/commentators *du jour* - these are two different things, I'm afraid. And my concern is the latter.

    Does the condemnation of reporters on the basis of a subjective opinion still reflect badly on an individual if the weighty majority of other individuals share that subjective opinion? Because going on the evidence of responses so far, I'd say commentators and viewers don't seem to be on the same page. And that's the heart of my criticism - they should be!

    I wouldn't dream to claim the commentators are "ignorant" or "wrong" on a personal level to mangle the language in weird and (not always) wonderful ways..... We've all done that (and have done for generations).....

    It's that in doing so during work hours they are not, in my opinion, doing their job properly.

  • Comment number 43.

    M@x: thanks for your response - I'm sure I over-reacted to your original comment, and don't doubt your benevolence! You definitely have a point that expressions such as "to podium" are somewhat grating, and I agree that the journalists have a responsibility to use the appropriate register/dialect for their audience: the majority should rule. On the other hand, "to podium" is fairly comprehensible, even if it is displeasing to the ear, and there is no single-word synonym in the language as it stands; so it's difficult to marshal a principled argument against its use. By contrast, some other examples on here (laps of the pool, English manager, etc.) are genuinely misleading or ambiguous, and strike me as more objectionable for that reason.

  • Comment number 44.

    1. Too big an ask.
    2. Massive.
    3. Imperfect tense of the word love - "Utd have equalised, Richard, and the fans are loving it!" We've got McDonalds to blame for that.
    4. To 'medal' or 'podium'
    5. Referring to any sportsman/woman as an athlete. Even golfers. As ludicrous and pretentious as calling pop stars 'artists'.
    6. Any time soon.

  • Comment number 45.

    Ah, now I must accept a substantial amount of responsibility for being rather over-zealous in my first post, stwl; you make a very fair point of these things being subjective - and I didn't open with an especially conciliatory tone in that respect!

    Regarding "to podium" having fairly unambiguous meaning, despite any aesthetic oddness: I'd have to agree that's certainly true (though "medal" being phonetically close to "meddle" perhaps presents more of a problem). There is indeed no single-word synonym, either. But though it's no crime to fill that gap in the market, I just wonder if it's strictly necessary.

    On how many occasions would adding the words "finish on the" in the middle of "to podium" either a) ruin the poetic flow of a commentary, or b) not be possible due to time constraints/action etc? If neither apply (and the first is rare, while the second is rarely acute enough), why make us all cringe?

    The occasional bit of colour in commentary is nice, as long as it doesn't sound lazy or sound like it's being done for effect. "To medal/podium" often just sounds a bit forced to me.

    Though I'm happy to accept I might cringe a bit more than everyone else does! :-)

  • Comment number 46.

    One comment that really grates me these days is when a football commentator says at half time 'the players are heading for their half-time cup of tea'. This was used by someone at the World Cup game between Argentina and Nigeria.
    So just as new expressions can grate, some old expressions do too!

  • Comment number 47.

    I always enjoy and welcome the comments on this blog, but some of these are particularly interesting. Many thanks for that.

    Stwl (most recently in #43) and M@x in #42 seem to be moving closer together, but I think the point about "to podium" is that it currently doesn't officially exist as a verb; and johncarewcarew89 in #24 is right that we could potentially then accept all sorts of horrible constructions like "to century". And I think my point is about more than aesthetics: it's about comprehensibility, and I'm not sure most of the audience will readily understand "he's hoping to podium" in the way they'd understand "he's hoping to win a medal".

    Obviously fewer people are bothered about "two-time" but to Gruchul in #2: I think the English would orginally have been "twice" or "two times", and "two-time" is an Americanism. But as a footnote: when I was a kid you'd hear the word "thrice" for "three times" and to confirm the point a number of people have made - language moves on and there's no doubt "thrice" is now close to obsolete.

    But the wider argument is that if English develops then it's best if it's in ways that illuminate and inspire. What we want for sport and in broadcasting in general is a use of language that's dynamic, exciting - but not irritating...

    Thanks for the examples of other things you don't like. It hadn't really struck me before but I enjoyed hurtmyback in #5 on post-codes. Those of us in W12 will pay attention to what you say.

  • Comment number 48.

    I too hate the term 'Team GB', but it's the marketeers who are to blame for that, I suspect. Although, they may have gotten (an old word I hate - it's not just new ones, some words are just ugly) the idea from the Americans.

    Turning nouns into verbs is always going to sound awkward, at least initially, but sports commentators do seem to love to do it. Another that annoys: 'out-strengthed'. Using abbreviations as words is another terrible crime, witness the abomination that is: 'three V three at the back'.

    On grammatical correctness, rather than lexical change, as long as our journalists don't fall into the American habit (just listen to any CNN report by an American Sports journalist - it's always Sports in America, never Sport for some reason, although the use of the plural is surely correct in this case) of being unable to decide whether sporting teams should be referred to in the singular or the plural, I will be happy.

    However, if the day ever dawns on which a BBC journalist decides to ditch the preposition and tell me, 'David Cameron met Barack Obama Wednesday', then that will be the day I stop supporting 38 Degrees and decide that Cameron and his cronies can get rid of you after all. That said, it would be nice if there were a few less typos in the BBC's online reports when they are posted. The increasingly tabloid / opinionated style of some reports irritates too, I can't help but wonder if it's because some of your (sorry to dump all the blame on you Mr Mosey) younger journalists have been hired to write blogs.

    I'm thirty, by the way.

    Here's a generally ugly paragraph I found by indulging some sort of masochistic tendency by going to the CNN US Sports front page: The U.S. team, which is missing many of the stars that helped win Olympic gold two years ago, used superior quickness to disrupt Greece's ball movement and clog passing lanes. Greece wound up turning the ball over 24 times and was outrebounded 53-25, including 30-7 in the second half, when the game was largely decided.

    Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/basketball/nba/08/25/usa.greece.ap/index.html?eref=sihp#ixzz0xkS4f78I

  • Comment number 49.

    The perennial excuse is that 'language is always changing: you can't stop it'. True, but in my observation a lot of the changes are nowadays made by people who are pretty illiterate but, through working in the media, are in a position of some influence. Solecisms and clumsy mistakes and inventions get copied by others who know no better. For example, in recent years we've often been told that a football team has suffered a defeat 'to' another team - instead of 'by'. This was undoubtedly first used by some reporter or other who simply hadn't read enough to know that it was wrong - but that it was then copied by so many others reveals the general standard of literacy amongst sports journalists to be quite low.

  • Comment number 50.

    The level of intellectual snobbery on this feed is quite astonishing.

    If it really is your view that the introduction of new sporting phraseology is unacceptable, then at least show a degree of consistency: perhaps you would care to discuss "association football", comment on an excellent "try at goal" in a recent rugby match or praise England for their strong performances in the "creckett" against Pakistan.

    The invention of new phrases adds to the quality of sporting commentary, providing colour, verve and texture, rather than diminishing it. The next time you hear mention of a "googly", "dump tackle" or "elastico", perhaps spare a thought for the evovling nature of the English language.

  • Comment number 51.

    In response to Roger's comment: is it true that 'podium' isn't a verb? It's not in the OED - but the OED is not a definitive inventory of the English language, it's a list of all the usages that had become established as of when the dictionary was last updated. It could well have made it already, given its history in sports commentary (http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002839.html).

    You could avoid controversy by restricting your reporters to OED-sanctioned usages: this would allow them to use 'winningest', though, as per definition 2 for winning (ppl. a.).

  • Comment number 52.

    This has been mentioned already, but my pet peeve is "it's a big/tough ask".

    Why not just say "it's difficult"? Or would that be too much of an ask?

  • Comment number 53.

    "To medal" or "to win a medal" - if it communicates the message effectively, then I don't see an issue with it. I can take either of them, though the first is quicker to say in a broadcast, and "medal" as a word rolls off the tongue a lot easier with two syllables. If communicating effectively means breaking existing rules, I'll do it, and so should the BBC. Thankfully, English is a language run by consensus and not by a small minority of journalists and academics.

  • Comment number 54.

    My personal pet hate is athletes/coaches being described as the "winningest" in their sport.

  • Comment number 55.

    Australian commentators are pretty bad for using "medalled" as a verb, most commonly in the past tense with swimming e.g. "Stephanie Rice medalled in the last Olympics and is only a few LAPS away from repeating that feat". Yes, they use laps instead of lengths here too. When I first heard someone say they were going to do laps of the pool, I thought they would be swimming round the outside wall in a rectangle.

    One difference I have noticed between Australia and the UK is regarding collective nouns. An English news reporter will say

    "Chelsea ARE top of the table", but an Australian news reporter will say

    "Chelsea IS top of the table".

    For me, the latter is wrong because it is not the singular London district of Chelsea that is top of the table, but a collective, Chelsea Football Club. One wouldn't say "the children IS playing in the garden" and "we IS top of the league, we IS top of the league" isn't a very good chant either. They do it with all their sports. Other examples: "Australia IS in a commanding position with a 300 run lead in the first Ashes test". "Australia IS behind Great Britain in the medals tally".

    Does anyone know which is the correct grammatical use? I will have to say the British English use, as we can't let the Aussies be better than us at grammar.

  • Comment number 56.

    Perhaps sports journalists could also learn that if player A is substituted he goes on and B goes off. B is replaced. Also Liverpool do not host Villa. If you come to my party I don't host you, I host the event.

  • Comment number 57.

    Re BennyBlaco's comment about Chelsea is or Chelsea are, surely Chelsea Football CLUB is singular?

  • Comment number 58.

    Ah, the singular/plural debate is one that runs and runs.

    The BBC policy is to aim to be consistent, so if you use a singular verb like "Chelsea is in action tonight" then you can't immediately say "they're hoping to go top". (And "it is hoping to go top" sounds a bit odd to me.)

    This applies to lots of other nouns too, of course. "The government" can be followed by "is" or "are", and it's just a matter of consistency across the story.

    Gunner_Australia in #50: to be honest, I was a bit worried in kicking this off that it might sound like I and others were arguing for keeping the language as it was 100 years ago. Not the case, obviously, and I'm a firm advocate of language developing and renewing itself. However, I think it should be comprehensible and attractive - and not every new use of a word or phrase achieves that.

  • Comment number 59.

    I haven't seen thoughts on the athletics commentators translation of 2.5 metres which is explicit and clear, now we have a length of 2 meters and 50 but 50 what. To a DIY man like myself this could lead to "Massive" problems, with the memsab returning from Wickes with a shelf 450mm (17 3/4" they were the days)too short. All commentators must originate from Lancashire but try as they might bless um they still keep dropping the word 'the' as they continue to be here at track side,or at ring side. Do they for refreshments go 'up pub' I wonder ?

  • Comment number 60.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 61.

    Hi Roger

    I agree emphatically with your comments and those of Michael Cole. Poor use of grammar in the English language is irritatingly becoming near commonplace in many media forms. It is lazy and reflects a general weakening of reading, writing and arithmetic standards across the population. Unfortunately our "need for speed" sees young people of today more likely to be proficient in text-speak and lazy-lingo than in standard sensible English.

    Sometimes I get the impression that America coins these new-age phrases to be "cool" or "hip." It's neither. When reading a novel then a style of pop writing can be a necessary element of the script. But in factual journalism, no thanks.

  • Comment number 62.

    It depends on the event but in many cases I just have a problem with the phrase itself.

    If this is a multi day event then it raises expectations and puts pressure on the competitor.

    Even if it is a single day event it is still just commentator waffle as in a multi round event so much can happen such as an injury, an error or, rivals put in stronger performances in later rounds.

 

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