Sporting News: Changes in American English

The Sporting News:  Changes in American English

Among the fascinating aspects of major sports is the inventiveness of the players and fans and sports reporters in using the English language in a creative fashion.

They might, for example, borrow a more familiar image in order to simplify the team’s preparation for battle.  Playing sandlot football many years ago, for example, we would sometimes try the technique of the “Statue of Liberty” play, in which the quarterback would pull the ball past his ear and do a backwards handoff, or short pass, to a back running laterally behind him. It may have worked once or twice.  But I have not seen it used lately in an NCAA or a NFL game.  We have heard a great deal this year about the “wildcat” formation and continuing news about “screens” and “shovel passes” and so on.

Not much is said about the “reverse” or the “double reverse” or the “end around” anymore.  I suspect that as the defensive players have become bigger, stronger,  faster, and maybe even smarter, that these seldom work.

I have not yet learned how a“wildcat” play is set up and how it is supposed to work

I remember our high school team being suckered once by a “lonesome end” play.  Ten of the opponent’s team had come into a conventional huddle while one player hung back on the field near their bench, a pass was thrown to him, a touchdown recorded, and we lost the game.  I am not sure if that maneuver was legal then, but I do believe it is illegal now.  And I do know that all of the “Blue Rapids Pirates” were  upset about it.

“Blend words” are popular in many  kinds of entertainment in the mass media.  See, for example, words like “sitcom,” “podcast,” “infotainment” and “edutainment.”  Two interesting blend words used in college football (both relating to a special kind of “trick play”) are the “fumblerooski” and the “trickeration” plays, which are rarely, but sometimes very effectively, used.  A clever coach will have at least one in his repertoire for just the right moment.

Another device that is found fairly often in media entertainment is the tendency to put a word to work as a new part of speech.  An example from “Facebook” is the change from a noun to a verb: a new partner in a person’s circle is said to have been “friended.”  He or she is apparently also capable, if things sour in the relationship, to be “unfriended.”  Once unfriended perhaps an outcast may seek once more to be “befriended,” which is a verb in standard usage.

Here are a couple of examples of part of speech changes of words from the sports media.  One Dick Vitale (tired perhaps of using the trite terms “diaper dandy” and “PT”) may refer to a team’s tall inside players as “the bigs,” successfully changing an adjective into a noun.  A local sports writer, who thrives on following the recruiting trail in men’s NCAA basketball, especially in the ACC, refers to a recruit as a “commit,” changing a verb into a noun quite adeptly.  When the player decides he will not honor his verbal or written agreement, he will therefore become a “decommit,” really a nice twisting and turning (slowly, slowly in the wind), of the conventions of American English language. But change is, after all, is it not, what the history of a language is all about.

Comments on and additions to this post always welcome!



2 Responses to “Sporting News: Changes in American English”

  1. CICvet Says:

    “Well, quarterback, Gleeper, just a buck – twenty, (80 seconds to you math/ratio disadvantaged fans) till the two-minute warning”.

  2. CICvet Says:

    pls remove comma after QB.

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