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The misuse of language and sports commentary


Scarcity creates value. If there is a shortage of something, its value increases. We know this is true for economics – when apples are in shortage, they cost more but when they are abundant, they are cheap. The same applies to language. When certain words are used sparingly they carry with them a high value. When words are blurted out repeatedly at every occasion then those words are in abundance and have little value or weight to them. These become shallow words.

Regrettably, there is an irritating trend for pundits, commentators and shock jocks to destroy the value of certain words by repeating them ad nauseum. Note to sports commentators – not every try is truly awesome – if it were then by definition no tries would be awesome.

Awesome used to be a word of great meaning to be used sparingly when a sight truly befitted its definition – full of awe, profoundly reverential.

The word has become so over used and misapplied to the merely eyebrow raising if not utterly banal or trivial, it is imperative to search for new words for the few truly awesome sights one might behold.

A great source of frustration to me as a sports fan is in suffering through infantile commentary of sporting events perpetrated by men who must assume their audience is as in constant need of gratification as they are.

I am enjoying the rugby world cup and the results of my national team, the All Blacks, but Justin Marshall’s verbal diarrhea severely diminishes my enjoyment. Mr Marshall runs out of superlatives to describe All Blacks’ tries as quickly as a student flat runs out of beer after exams. “Wow” is followed by “oh yeah” and when he feels he has exhausted those he resorts to simply emitting pleased noises*.

Sports commentary didn’t always used to be like this – the late Richie Benaud was so highly regarded precisely because he knew when to be quiet and let the pictures speak for themselves.

Sometimes pictures don’t need words at all.

If you lack the turn of phrase and gift for analogy of a Bill McLaren, for instance, then it would be wise to be more sparing in your use of words.

Perhaps next time the All Blacks score a memorable try, Mr Marshall will remember that when it comes to language, sometimes, less is more.

*There is an equalling annoying development of blind cheer leading in sports commentary which seems to have worsened in recent years as this piece on the Channel 9’s current Australian cricket commentary team explains.


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