24 July 2005

football slugger

In today's Ottawa Sun was this story, with an extended sport-to-sport crossover metaphor. It begins: For all those fans who fancied receiver Pat Woodcock being a home run hitter, Renegades coach/GM Joe Paopao has some news for you [emphasis added]. If you haven't heard of the Renegades, the word receiver should tip you off that they're a football team. But here is a clear baseball usage in a football text. It goes on:

Woodcock, a much-heralded free-agent signing before last season, is a singles and doubles guy. "You have six receivers and it's like a batting order," Paopao said yesterday. "Your top three guys are your core guys and you expect them to have 1-to-4 catches a game." So where does Woodcock fit into the picture? "He's in the middle of the batting order," said Paopao. After being pretty much ignored in the previous two games, Woodcock came close to hitting for what amounted to the cycle Thursday against the Edmonton Eskimos.

Paopao really rings up the baseball metaphor in this one. Now, a while a back I tried to draw a line between core lexical items of a sport and peripheral ones, and have written more about it. Core items are intrinsic to the discourse surrounding a sport, referring to instruments, positions, infractions, and so on. Peripheral ones are not, but still mark the discourse as sport-oriented. "Get untracked" was one. Peripheral vocabulary blurs into the interview cliche of giving it your all and playing with desperation.

I think some of the baseball terms above are probably core for the sport - singles and doubles - and others might be more peripheral. What matters is the wholesale importation of a baseball lexicon into a discussion about football.

I'm assuming a "home run" in football is a long pass that the receiver can take into the end zone. You can have home runs in hockey, too. I saw Brendan Shanahan quoted this week that removing the center red line from the rink would enable a "home run pass". I haven't been able to dig it up, but I've found the usage elsewhere:
We'd see more players "cherry pick" and hang out down the ice in anticipation of the home run pass instead of consistently backchecking.

So to sum up, observationally, some baseball terminology can be used metaphorically in discussions of other sports. The same goes for some football terminology. Is it possible to have a theory of what sporting lexical items are allowed to do this? My hunch is yes - my hypothesis is that a sport can take a lexical item from another sport only if that lexical item can apply, metaphorically, in a non-sport context. I'll keep my eyes open for more data.

17 July 2005


While spending some time updating my blog roll, I came across this article linked from EFL geek. It's a little ominous - actually, enough to give me pause about blogging. It's a basic truth that publishing a blog is very easy, and a writer therefore has a huge risk of appearing uninformed in a very public venue. In contrast, the review process is a safety net that prevents you from looking so bad to anyone but the reviewers.

I call it "blogger's remorse", the feeling you get when you post something and immediately begin to think of reasons why you shouldn't have. It might be why so many write with noms du plume. If there's an upside, I think that while the above article is fair warning, the linguistics blogs I read and write all rely on some degree of self-review. I don't think I've seen any academic linguistic post where I thought, wow, I can't believe they said that.

16 July 2005


Not sure if this link will work, but it's to an article I found on Yahoo by AP Sports Writer Jerome Pugmire. The article describes memorials to Fabio Casartelli, a cyclist who died 10 years ago in a crash during the Tour de France and who was a teammate of Lance Armstrong at the time.

Not that I wasn't struck by the sadness of it all, but I also noted a little linguistic quibble towards the end:

When Armstrong visits Casartelli's grave, he does so alone, shielding and preserving the intimacy.

"I tend to not be public about it. When I go to Italy and visit the graveside, I don't have a press conference," Armstrong said. "It's a private, personal visit between me and him."

Graveside was news to me; I'd always thought gravesite was the word. Three possibilities: (a) Armstrong has used some sort of eggcorn, (b) Armstrong was misquoted, (c) I'm wrong about the word.

The misquoting option is highly likely; in Armstrong's accent, graveside and gravesite are likely to be near homonyms, with the vowels in the second syllable being identical for both quality and length.

My wrongness is also highly possible. Google returns the following numbers of pages:
grave_side, 465K
graveside, 435 K
grave_site, 745K (Curiously, Number 2 is Diefenbaker's)
gravesite, 256 K

Grave_site also registers "did you mean: gravesite". And graveside gets a link to "definition: graveside". Turns out Google uses Answers.com as its dictionary, which in turn uses Houghton-Mifflin as its source. Gravesite and graveside are both there (adjacently), but only the -side form nets a definition link from a Google search. I don't have access to OED from here, so can't use it to corroborate.

For the curious, gravesight appears 933 times, sometimes apparently intentionally.

13 July 2005

yawwwn vs. yaaawn

Here's another sports & media & language bit.

This morning the NHL announced a deal has been reached "in principle" to end the 10 month labour dispute. I checked the Yahoo sports page and encountered the following poll:

Poll: are you excited?
[ ] Definitely! [ ] Yaw-w-w-n

These polls are annoying because of their false-alternative setup. Nevertheless I picked "excited", because I lean more that way than "yawn". But I also thought, in writing, is that really how you express an exaggeratedly long vowel?

The issue for me is not the hyphens, but the choice of using multiple w's instead of multiple a's. Just the kind of thing to investigate with some GoogleCorpusSearching.

Not expecting much luck with "yawn" extensions, I first tested aaah vs ahhh, with repetitions up to 10. This is kind of a replication of a Language Log study. Here are the results:


I think the appropriate test is a paired-subjects t-test; MeanA-MeanB=319.011, t = 2.8, df = 9, p = 0.023198. It looks like repeating the second chacracter of a digraph is the preferred way to express exaggerated length.

[Incidentally, the high number of [ahh] actually lowers the p-value. I reran the analysis lowering it to 1,410, based on the assumption that lots of [ahh]'s refer to various associations, and p drops quite a bit.]

Intrigued, I decided to go after yaawn vs yawwn anyway. Results are below:


Why these have second peaks at around 6 repetitions is kind of interesting. I think the extra-extra repetition (i.e., 6 rather than 2) makes the string look less like a typo, a problem that ahh and ahhh don't seem do have. (This might also explain the appearance of the dashes in Yahoo's yaw-w-w-n.

But also interesting is how there's more repetition of the first letter in the digraph. This is nearly significant on a paired-subjects t-test: MeanA-MeanB = -1.559, t = - 2.25, df = 8, p = .0545. Who knew?

07 July 2005

hat trick or triple crown?

A few weeks ago I posted about the lexicon of pro sports, especially with respect to terms crossing from one sport to another. Coverage of Roger Federer's recent win at Wimbledon (his third straight victory in that tournament) illustrates two such crossovers:

From the Toronto Sun: Triple Crown Federer

First, I was surprised to see both outfits using some sort of metaphorical crossover. Curious, I checked around some more, and could not find another example (for the same event, the Wimbledon final) in a brief but geographically dispersed sample:

From AP via Yahoo: Federer makes it three in a row at Wimbledon. The story mentions "three straight" and "three consecutive," but no tricks or crowns.
NY Times: Federer (Yawn) Wins at Wimbledon Again (uh, unpatriotic my ass ... see if they suggest yawning when Roddick gets three in a row)
LA Times: Federer Shows He's Unmatched
Boston Globe: Federer ably protects his Wimbledon turf
Globe and Mail: Federer wins third straight Wimbledon title

Second, I'm struck at the usages. "Hat trick" seems to be widely known enough that it can apply in any setting, sports or otherwise, to refer to three-at-once. You could have a hat trick of exams, or of hamburgers, or of Survivor challenges. Regardless, it seems to refer to three of the same thing. In this light, its usage by CBC to refer to a third consecutive title in the same tournament is highly compliant with this sense of the phrase (especially in light of the "team hat trick").

In contrast (and maybe I'm thinking too much about it here) the phrase "triple crown" does not seem appropriate. Every usage I've seen so far suggests its use refers to a collocation of three different things - three different horse races, or three different tournaments. Not the same tournament three times. So I guess I need to file this away as an expansion of the phrase's possible reference, or as a reminder not to take anything in any Toronto and/or Sun paper too seriously.

I'm kind of leaning to the latter, imagining a situation in which either a writer, editor, or layout guy is aware of the threeness of the feat, and that it's Wimbledon, and English, so royal, and crown-worthy, so let's call it a Triple Crown. (Even though there's no crown involved - I think they win a plate).

But to be fair, I think the "three-of-same" vs. "three-of-different" contrast for hat trick vs triple crown is not so clear. In the post I link to above, I mention how "hat trick" has been used to refer to a collocation of three different tournament championships. Another such example is the "Gordie Howe hat trick", an event in which a player is credited with a goal, an assist, and a fight in the same hockey game. And I doubt Howe was the first player to acquire such a distinction.