China / Hot Issues

Adding punch to our conversations

By Murray Greig (China Daily) Updated: 2016-02-24 08:03

For better or worse, the wide world of sports has left an indelible imprint on colloquial English.

Call it "sportsese" - jargon that's either evolved on its own or has been shamelessly co-opted by newspaper hacks and TV talking heads looking to make an impression.

Either way, it's here to stay - posing yet another challenge for non-native speakers. And the British.

Boxing terminology is particularly prevalent in everyday English, transcending social, cultural and political boundaries to add punch to our conversations. From "saved by the bell" and "trading jabs" to "beating the count" and "toeing the line", references gleaned from the sweet science have become seamlessly entrenched in the common lexicon.

Naturally, you can blame the mass media for these linguistic hijackings. Here are some recent examples:

A CNN report on the debate between US presidential contenders included the observation that while "the gloves are off" in the battle between Republican front-runners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, dark horse Marco Rubio is "still learning the ropes".

Adding punch to our conversations

An Associated Press story on the escalating costs of auto manufacturing suggested Ford might be ready to "throw in the towel" on some of the company's Canadian operations.

A Washington columnist opined that Internet criticism of Michelle Obama's table manners was "below the belt".

The LA Times reported that a Hollywood producer was prepared to verbally "duke it out" with critics after poor reviews of his latest film.

A Daily Telegraph story referred to a famous actor "looking a bit punch drunk" while being questioned by police after a traffic accident.

But it's not just boxing; a lot of lingo from other sports has crept into everyday English, thanks to media poseurs. Faced with the challenge of slaking the public's insatiable thirst for sensational news and celebrity minutiae, some journalists sincerely believe that prose laced with athletic phraseology might be construed as clever.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I just hope you appreciate my bringing this to your attention, because tapping out a column like this is a long shot for a guy with my track record.

Truth is, I huddled with the boss and he told me to step up to the plate and hit one out of the park. We worked out a game plan, but then I fumbled the snap and dropped the ball.

Of course, the grandstand play would have been to convince a colleague to pinch hit for me, but when I threw him the curve, he fanned on it. That made it a whole new ball game, so I figured I'd just take it on the chin and try not to get teed off.

At least I can say I got off the ropes long enough to tackle the assignment before I went down swinging. Like mom used to say: If you're not happy with the hand you're dealt, sometimes you just have to rope-a-dope.

But hey, thanks for bein' in my corner.

Catch you later.

A man proposes to his girlfriend with a bouquet of cash in Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan province on Feb 21, 2016.

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