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When I am Copyeditor General ...: Olympians will try to win. Period.


Olympians will try to win. Period.

I can't watch the Olympics. I just can't. Sure, I love the running around and the jumping and the splashing. But whenever the announcers start to discuss the essential aim of the participants' actions, I have to turn away. Because eventually they'll use That Verb.

To medal.

I know, I know; it's largely accepted now. It has weasled its way into speech and hooked itself into that particularly creative and forgiving (read: lazy) area of communications we call sports journalism, and now we see it everywhere:

One could clearly make a case for the verb's legitimacy. There's even a linguistic term that describes this kind of thing: anthimeria, or the use of one type of word as if it were another (e.g. a noun used as a verb). Shakespeare and Milton did it all the time.

I should make clear that it's not the practice of word-use substitution that bugs me: it's purely, simply, exquisitely That Verb. It's unnecessary. It's vapid. Again, it's lazy.

And yes, it takes longer to say "he'd like to finish within the top three" or "she hopes to win either gold, silver or bronze" or "he expects to be one of the guys with the flowers and the crying and the national anthem and stuff."

I wonder, though, whether there's a more culturally telling reason for the use and acceptance of this particular word choice: it makes the goal of the action the verb. It turns the symbol of achievement into the entire experience; it makes the destination the journey. It's no longer about participation: it's about winning, period.

And don't even get me started on the use of "winningest."

Copyeditor General's ruling: If this is an acceptable way of referring to aspirations and aquisitions, why limit it to sport? Why not use it in other circumstances?

I haven't had lunch yet, but I expect to sandwich soon.

Our offer was accepted, so it looks like we'll house by the end of the month.

She went into premature labor and surprised everyone by babying this morning.

Both McCain and Obama are hoping to president in November.

Okay, your turn: hit me with your best/worst example of anthimeria!


Laura Matthews said...

a few Olympics ago, an announcer said about some skaters (I think, so must have been winter).... "Look at that technicianship!"

I remember thinking, what happened to the word "technique"?

Laura Matthews said...

okay, so that wasn't an example of what you're talking about, but it relates to the Olympics. such is my attempt at relevancy.

LimeyG said...

"Technicianship"? Lovely!

And on the subject of making things up, I was just in a meeting where someone suggested I "conversate" with another person. I assume that means to talk about Chuck Taylors?

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