We all speak a little boxing
BY MURRAY GREIG ,EDMONTON SUN
EDMONTON - There’s nothing like a federal election to bring out the sports metaphors — especially those gleaned from the sweet science.
It just reminds us that the best “sportsese” — jargon that’s evolved on its own or is shamelessly invented by scribblers bent on coining colourful phrases — steps out of the box, so to speak. It’s then absorbed into the common lexicon by folks who often have no inkling that they’re using sports terminology.
Not surprisingly, politicians and TV talking heads are the major culprits — as evidenced by these recent examples provided by the mainstream media:
• A CTV report on the leaders debate included the observation that while “the gloves were off” in the four-way fight between Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff, Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton, the Green Party “is still learning the ropes.”
• A CNN story on the escalating costs of auto manufacturing suggested that Ford might be ready to “throw in the towel” on some Canadian operations.
• A syndicated columnist wrote that a rival’s criticism of U.S. first lady Michelle Obama was “below the belt.”
• Entertainment Tonight reported that Charlie Sheen was prepared to “take it on the chin” after mixed reviews for the opening of his one-man show in Detroit.
• A British TV commentator told his audience he felt “a little punch-drunk” after listening to comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s comments on the upcoming royal nuptials.
See what I mean?
From “saved by the bell” and “trading verbal jabs” to “beating the count” and “toeing the line,” boxing terms have crept into everyday use, transcending social, cultural and political boundaries to make our conversations more colourful and captivating.
Like any jargon, however, some ring lingo has “taken the count,” as it were.
Adjectives that were commonplace in the 1930s and ’40s — “ring worms” (fight fans), “maulies” (fists), Ethels (cautious fighters), “bacteria” (promoters) and “Smokes” (black fighters) — have thankfully fallen out of favour.
Ditto for “cold-packer” (knockout punch), “derbied dandies” (gamblers) and “pasta punchers” (Italian fighters).
It’s not just boxing that livens up our language. Like it or loathe it, the wide world of sports has left an indelible imprint on the English we speak.
Naturally, you can blame the media for that.
Faced with the dual challenge of slaking the public’s insatiable thirst for news and the need to fill pages with something other than the latest celebri-skank drivel, journalists like to pretend we’ve elevated embellishment to the status of high art.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I just hope you appreciate my pointing it out, because penning a treatise like this is a long shot for somebody with my track record.
Of course, the grandstand play would be to say I asked a colleague to pinch hit for me, but that kind of rope-a-dope tactic always strikes out.
Truth is, the boss told me to step up to the plate and hit a home run, but then he threw me a curve with all these new-fangled page designs.
We huddled over what to do next, but I fumbled the snap and dropped the ball.
Guess I’ll just have to suck it up, take it on the chin and not get teed off when I find myself behind the eight-ball.
At least I can say I got off the ropes long enough to tackle the assignment before I went down swinging.
Like mom always said, if you’re not happy with what the defence gives you, sometimes you just have to eat the damn ball.
But hey, thanks for bein’ in my corner.
Catch you later.