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Word Maven Patricia T. O’Conner on Sportscaster Language

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Baseball season is about to begin, so our word maven, Patricia T. O’Conner, is here to talk about sportscaster language. She’ll also answer questions about language and grammar. An updated and expanded third edition of O’Conner’s book, Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English, is available in paperback, as is  Origins of the Specious, written with Stewart Kellerman.

If you have a question about language and grammar, leave a comment or call us at 212-433-9692!

Guests:

Patricia T. O'Conner

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Comments [29]

clearly doesn't watch sports

if she can provide a single example excerpt of someone omitting 'the' before 'bullpen' i'd be very impressed

Mar. 23 2014 04:58 PM
Cervantes

recap, is only used when game is over;reset,is used for a stat recap [or update] during a game. confused ??

Mar. 19 2014 04:52 PM
Cervantes

excuse me pat- but no one really calls it a "fair pole",during a play in a game;that's just said as an aside in jest,once in a blue moon.

Mar. 19 2014 04:30 PM
Cervantes

also-a pitcher is throwing from an elevated mound[which is called "the mound"]. so,the pitcher is literally throwing on ,or at, an angle or "pitch".

Mar. 19 2014 04:26 PM
Mark - To John from Mount Vernon

Farther is about physical distance. It can be measured in inches, feet, yards, or miles. Further refers to degree, quantity, time, or space.

In Ms O'Conner's book "Woe is I," she uses this example: "Lumpy insisted he could walk no farther, and he refused to discuss it any further."

Mar. 19 2014 02:08 PM
Ro from SoHo

"Rhubarb" as a background sound filler started in 1852 Charles Kean English Princess Theatre in London - as a shorthand for look as though you're having a conversation.
There is a Rhubarb Theatre in Lincoln, UK.

Mar. 19 2014 02:05 PM
Steven from New York, NY

Please get rid of this guest. She bills herself as an expert and spends her time with her nose in the dictionary - ON THE AIR! Also, she's just WRONG about some of her word derivations. Don't have her back.

Mar. 19 2014 01:58 PM
Robert from NYC

I'm sorry but I can't let this go. That fellow from my hometown Duh Bronx is wrong about Celtic origin word in dictionaries. He should go through an english dictionary that offers etymological sections and see that there are many, many, many words that are of Celtic origin. I think you were right, he read that book that the Irish invented everything. In fact there were History Channel shows that sort of implied that sentiment very strongly. They've justifiably disappeared.

Mar. 19 2014 01:58 PM
Nora from Bloomfield, NJ

Please forgive our Irish-American suspicion of potential anti-Gaelic bias amongst English linguists: perhaps the mentality that outlawed the Irish language in Ireland is gone, but the memory of the penal laws linger. I once read, sadly I cannot remember where, that there were fewer than ten words in English with a Celtic root. I find that extremely hard to credit, considering that the Irish and English languages have been close neighbors for since 1066.

LOVE THE SHOW! Ber bua!

Mar. 19 2014 01:57 PM
Nora from Bloomfield, NJ

Please forgive our Irish-American suspicion of potential anti-Gaelic bias amongst English linguists: perhaps the mentality that outlawed the Irish language in Ireland is gone, but the memory of the penal laws linger. I once read, sadly I cannot remember where, that there were fewer than ten words in English with a Celtic root. I find that extremely hard to credit, considering that the Irish and English languages have been close neighbors for since 1066.

LOVE THE SHOW! Ber bua!

Mar. 19 2014 01:56 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Sounds like "pitcher" is related to "beaker"! That kinda makes sense.

Mar. 19 2014 01:56 PM
William from Manhattan

There's a restaurant in Nashville called The Catbird Seat, with the motto: "Sittin Pretty in the Catbird Seat"

Mar. 19 2014 01:55 PM
Amy from Manhattan

John, I think you're taking it too "fur." "Far" is the noncomparative form even in cases where "further" would be correct as the comparative.

Mar. 19 2014 01:54 PM
Hal from NYC

The first recorded usage occurred in a 1942 humorous short story by James Thurber titled "The Catbird Seat,"

Mar. 19 2014 01:49 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Maybe it's usually called the "foul pole" because fair is the default & the pole is there to tell whether the ball went foul, i.e., the unusual case is what gets remarked on?

Mar. 19 2014 01:46 PM
Robert from NYC

Study historical linguistics and find out how words change over centuries and millennia. Find out how b can become p, d become t, and g become c. These are not uncommon changes in linguistic history. How k becomes ch! It's actually lots of fun and is very educational so you don't have to ask these kinds of questions over and over. You can probably figure out some words yourself after seeing enough examples in history.

Mar. 19 2014 01:40 PM
Jim

Doesn't the phrase "base ball" appear in a Jane Austen book, in one of its earliest uses in print?

Mar. 19 2014 01:38 PM
Robert from NYC

bicchiere in italian they're both from lating

Middle English picher, from Old French pichier, alteration of bichier, from Medieval Latin bicārium, drinking cup, probably from Greek bikos, jar, possibly from Egyptian biḳ, oil vessel.]

Mar. 19 2014 01:35 PM
Hal from NYC

Please Explain: Gridiron

Mar. 19 2014 01:34 PM
alan from Brooklyn

We need to get sportscasters to stop using the word 'literally'.

Mar. 19 2014 01:34 PM
Ken from UWS

How did we wind up with the word pitcher -- Leonard missed his own pun!

Mar. 19 2014 01:34 PM

What about the nick names
A rod. big unit. magic Johnson etc
Is it just me or do they want me to think about penis

Mar. 19 2014 01:29 PM
Doug from West Village

Why do sports announcers refer to a player as a "DEE-fense?"

Mar. 19 2014 01:27 PM
Mark from Mount Vernon

Do you know the reason the Boston team is pronounced Seltics, when Keltic is the Irish pronunication?

Mar. 19 2014 01:23 PM
Jill from Mamaroneck

Here is the biggest sports-related language crime, in my view: The erroneous use of "verse" these days instead of versus. As in: "Coming up, it's the Bills verse the Jets." UGH!

I am certain that this is a generational thing stemming from video gaming: kids pronouncing "vs." that they see on a screen as verse rather than versus. I've heard kids say, "I'll play you in verse mode" - meaning, "I'll play that video game against you" (rather than solo). But when I hear this usage on the air - ESPN, etc - I just cringe. Make it stop!!

Mar. 19 2014 01:11 PM

MIDDLEMARCH WORDS (& usage): Maybe (with "prevenient grace") Ms.O'Conner can be on when the book is discussed the 28th; if she is in a "vinous" state she could phone in. Should she be playing cards at home there is "no reason why the renewal of rubbers should end." If she can attend, fine, but it will not "worret" Mr. Lopate, though as she might "be come" to pay a visit, Leonard would no doubt say, "I am so glad you are come."

Mar. 19 2014 01:09 PM
John

Also, if you have time, what are your thoughts on "farther" and "further". It really bothers me when someone says "The next town is eight miles 'further' down the road." You certainly wouldn't say "How 'fur' is the next town?"

Thank-you.

Mar. 19 2014 10:39 AM
John

Dear Ms. O'Conner:

I question if it is enough to say "gay and lesbian". Since lesbians are gay, isn't it clearer (and better) to say "gay male and lesbian". What we need is a single word for a male who is gay - like maybe "gayle".

What are your thoughts?

Thank-you.

Mar. 19 2014 10:14 AM
Cervantes

This is a bit off topic but minus Jon Miller,the pronunciation of Spanish speaking players names by MLB broadcasters, is beyond abysmal. Anibal[as in Sanchez] becomes AnnaBelle !!

Mar. 19 2014 01:12 AM

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