5 words football commentators use that will make you love plain English

5 words football commentators use that will make you love plain English





5 words football commentators use that will make you love plain English


Tony Hallett
Managing director

Tony set up Collective Content in 2011 so brands can more easily become publishers and tell stories. This built on 15 years in media, from reporter to publishing director at Silicon Media Group, CNET Networks and CBS Interactive.

We love using plain English. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid jargon, unsurprisingly so for B2B content in quite a few industries, but I’m not talking about that here. I mean avoiding unnecessarily complicated language when a simple word or phrase will do.

BT Sports Ian Darke

We see that happen a lot in IT. Executives are prone to want to say ‘utilise’ when a simple ‘use’ will do. And don’t get us started on ‘leverage’.
But there’s another example of how ridiculous this approach is. And you see it in action with football commentators.

I’m not talking about some of the football language – like the use of ‘top, top’ meaning ‘very good’. (As in “They’re a top, top Spanish team” or “He’s a top, top centre-forward”.) Or the use of ‘massive’ in the way that lots of people use it today, meaning something more than ‘very big’. (“They’re a massive club.”) What I mean is the words that are unnecessarily complicated.

There are plenty of clichés that are trotted out in football circles – ‘handbags’, ‘early doors’, ‘there or thereabouts’ and about a hundred others – just as there are in certain other sports. Cricket in particular comes to mind. I also don’t mean those.

Stripping this right back, there are words that drive me crazy, words only commentators seem to say. Here are five that come to mind:

  1. Players and managers never seem to complain these days. (If only.) According to match commentators, they ‘remonstrate’. When do you ever hear that outside football?
  2. Sure you get lazy or tired players. But are they ever just that? No, they’re often ‘lethargic’ or – bonus points here – ‘lackadaisical’.
  3. When a player keeps on missing or cocking up clear chances, is he wasteful? No, he’s ‘profligate’. Particularly bad game? Then he’s ‘profligate in the extreme’.
  4. Most of us talk about goal posts and the cross bar. Oh no, why keep it that simple? Those with the microphones like to say ‘stanchion’.
  5. Then what if it’s a thing a player is known for? It’s their ‘stock in trade’. Yes, I have no idea either.

Of course it never ends. At times I think these guys are from another age. The other night a player was ‘rebuked’ by his manager. It’s OK. No one else on his side seemed worried. Sorry, ‘perturbed’. Though I did catch one team apparently showing some ‘angst’ – like a teenager (or maybe a German) – when defending a slender lead.

For all these words there are more straightforward options. Why aren’t they used? Sometimes words such as ‘worried’, ‘told off’ or ‘wasteful’ are. But my only theory is that commentators have to say ‘he’s tired’ about 30 times during a game and don’t want to use the same words over and over.
Or could it just be they’re trying to be clever? They’re managing the opposite.

To be a commentator or professional writer you should be good with words. An example such as James Richardson shows that such people exist.

But just as in other professions people think longer, unusual words make them sound smart. In real life, however, those who don’t resort to cliché and jargon are the smart ones. That comes with practice and help.
Bet you thought I’d end on a football cliché. So that’s one-nil, clear communication.

*photo credit: BT Sport
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