language change and slang Learn English sporting English

Sport shorts

Just been reading this great article about how journalists, especially sporting journalists tend to use the phrase ahead of, where the word before would suit better. This month, What’s your English? concentrates on sporting English, and sporting people have many fascinating and entertaining ways to describe and discuss their great passion. There is a definite culture to sportspeak as both Stan Carey and Andrew Delahunty have illustrated. One of my favourite phrases is at the end of the day. It would be more correct to say ‘at the end of the game’ or even ‘to sum it all up’. It also seems common for men to infantilise each other; the lads played well today, or this is the first Olympic final for this 22-year old British lad. What makes me giggle though, is the way they talk about injuries. Here sports people are doing the opposite of using too many words and actually using too few, to great comic effect in my view. If someone injures their hamstring, this situation is referred to as follows: The lad’s got a hamstring. They don’t bother to say that it is a torn or pulled hamstring, just a hamstring.  Along these lines, it is possible to have a groin and a shoulder, or a knee and a wrist. Tee hee …

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Beth Penfold


  • “The lad’s got a hamstring.” Maybe it has something to do with the fact that hamstrings are almost invariably mentioned in the context of hamstring injuries. In sporting contexts anyway. So for efficiency’s sake, it’s a natural metonymy. Amusing, too, as you say!

  • I’ve had a look at the BNC using Sketch Engine ( and the most frequent modifiers are indeed to do with injury as Stan says: pulled, busted, torn, damaged, sore, injured, troublesome. And what can a lad do to his hamstring (i.e. object_of)? The list shows a similar pattern: strain, nurse, stretch, pull, clutch, damage, tear, sustain, test, cut . My favourite must be nurse 🙂

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