The new language of tennis

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 4th, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Aside from John McEnroe’s relentless mispronunciation of players’ names (Jokeavitch, del Porcho) another element seems to have crept into the language of tennis this Wimbledon. War terminology.

I know it’s been there for a while in lots of sports but somehow it seems more prevalent at this year’s Championships. This player uses his big serve as ‘ammunition’. Another uses her forehand as a ‘weapon of choice’. I even heard one commentator describe Steffi Graff’s serve as a ‘weapon of mass destruction’.

Other words of war that have been banded around the commentary box this week include ‘firepower’ and ‘big guns’ – used to describe a big serve.

Maybe I’m being oversensitive but I don’t like it. Neither war terminology in business either – I particularly loathe ‘mission critical’.

The language of war has become very sanitised over the years, disguising to a large extent what’s really going on. Pretty much like a lot of business-speak – probably why it’s attractive.

War is unpleasant: people get killed and injured. Sport is entertainment, and while it gets tough at times, and players do get injured, it’s rarely life threatening. Same with business.

Business people in particular seem to think they need to use what they imagine are ‘dynamic’ or ‘strong’ words to give themselves credibility. Many end up sounding like incoherent idiots.

At a time when service men and women are in genuinely dangerous situations, receiving horrific injuries, some losing their lives, using the language of war in sport and business seems wrong. It devalues the true meaning of these words so they no longer have the impact they should. We no longer think about the horrors they really describe.

To quote Boris Becker after he lost in the second round at the 1987 Wimbledon Championships, “Of course I am disappointed, but I didn’t lose a war. There is no one dead. It was just a tennis match.”


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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

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