Sunday, June 12, 2011

BLOG: A word on words

As a speaker of English with an American vocabulary, I am often surprised by the word choice of British sports analysts.  In short, they say things that American announcers never would.  Can you imagine John Madden calling an American footballer “precious,” or PTI referring to a NBA baller as “cheeky”?  Not unless Precious happened to be the young man’s last name, and only if the point guard looked like this guy.

Constantly amused by EPL diction, I’ve devoted this blog to some of the entertaining expressions I’ve heard over the last few years.  My plan is as follows.  First, I’ll share a word or phrase from the UK commentary desk.  Then, based on sound alone, I’ll create a possible definition and offer a sample sentence.  After that, to put you out of your misery, I’ll supply the real definition as a proper example of usage.  It’ll be just like vocabulary quizzes back in fourth grade, only funnier.  I hope.


Word or phrase: “at sixes and sevens”
Possible definition: Sixes and sevens are people you’d date, but only when the eights and nines are busy.  Forget about the tens.
Sample sentence: “Wanda just left me, so I’m going to holler at my sixes and sevens.”

Actual meaning:  “At sixes and sevens” is a long-standing English phrase denoting confusion or chaos.  A quick look at Wikipedia suggests that both Chaucer and Shakespeare used similar phrasing just last week.  Note—they should edit that to “several centuries ago.”
Properly used:  “Tottenham defenders are always at sixes and sevens, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone.”

Word or phrase: “shambolic”
Possible definition: Shambolic is the name of a beverage combining champagne and a typical energy drink.
Sample sentence: “After spending six hours auto-tuning Katie Perry’s voice, Usher opened a bottle of Shambolic as though he’d won the Carling Cup.”

Actual meaning: Disorderly or chaotic.
Properly used: “After a shambolic performance, Massimo Busacca should be forced to watch Failure to Launch repeatedly until his eyes sizzle.”

Word or phrase: “ghosting”
Possible definition:  Donning a white sheet with eye holes.
Sample sentence: “Every Halloween, I see at least one loser ghosting for candy.  TigEboue would not approve.

Actual meaning:  A player remaining unmarked and typically sprinting down the field on the side opposite the ball.
Properly used: “Walcott notices Hazard ghosting along the left sideline.  Walcott sends the ball to Hazard, who crosses to Van Persie for his eighth goal—and third header—of the match.  Man United, losing 8-nil at Old Trafford, are beyond demoralized.  What a shambolic display.  They’re all at sixes and sevens.”

Word or phrase: “brilliant”
Possible definition: Well, we use this one, but rarely to describe athletics.
Sample sentence: “Despite the hair transplant, that shine on Rooney’s head is brilliant!”

Actual meaning:  Sparkling, outstanding, illustrious, intelligent, or having shown great talent.
Properly used: “Despite the hair transplant, that shine on Rooney’s head is brilliant!”  Also good, “New signings for Arsenal!  They’re over 19?  A world class defender and a proven striker?  Brilliant!”  

Word or phrase: “tantamount”
Possible definition: Riding one of those horse-sized animals at the start of The Empire Strikes Back.
Sample sentence: “On the ice-planet Hoth, Han Solo went tantamount while Skywalker was hanging upside-down in a cave.”  Note—They are called “ton-ton” normally, but when employing their name in an adjective phrase, any “o” becomes an “a.”  Weird but true.

Actual meaning: Equivalent in effect or force.
Properly used: “Dear Arsene, A player coming back from injury is NOT tantamount to a new signing!”

And there you have it.  Other words and phrases have surprised me, but these five stand out at the moment.  Let me know if you think of others, because I’d love to compile a thorough catalogue.

Until next time—Come On You Gunners (and soon to be signed Gunners!)

George Sedgwick is the branch manager of the Philly Gooners and a regular contributor to the Arsenal Review USA Podcast. He’ll be blogging on a weekly basis throughout the summer…