A game of two cliches
Having just sat down and watched Match of the Day 2 from Sunday night again, a question occurs, which hopefully someone might be able to answer.
In his analysis of the Newcastle v Sunderland game, Alan Hansen described it as a match in which "no quarter was asked". Al actually didn't get as far as completing the familiar phrase, but it is so well known the shorthand version would do.
But do we really know what the phrase means? I don't. I know it is a phrase used to describe the kind of match in which two sides display even greater than usual commitment, but how did it end up meaning that? What is a quarter in this context?
A quarter of Midget Gems may be neither asked for nor given down at your local sweet shop, but how has this expression become associated with football , and does it apply to other sports where there are quarters? American Football, for example?
Are there other football-related phrases which seem meaningless on the face of it but which everybody understands to mean the same thing?
There is a great book called the Football Lexicon by Leigh and Woodhouse - but quarters, whether they are asked for or given or not, don't get a mention.
As a commentator, I find the language of football pretty interesting and consciously try not to resort to cliché, though sometimes "Oh, what a goal!" just comes out of your mouth before you have the chance to stop it! Actually, sometimes the goal is so good there is not much else to say about it.
One colleague of mine often uses the expression "if my memory serves me correct" when what he actually means is "if my eyesight has not let me down". The reality is that the fact, whatever it may be, is written in front of him in his notes.
One radio commentator frequently says "it goes a long way" when the ball flashes into the penalty area, which, I reckon, is a time-buying device. It gives him a split second to establish exactly who has done what in the subsequent melee.
I would be very interested to know if I use any similar verbal ticks without realising it. As for the old "no quarter asked or given" question, any explanations out there?