Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Writing - The World Cup is here warts and all.




I love football and have spent my life attending games and watching the sport on TV but as a purveyor of words the mess that some people make of our language in describing games is frustrating. There are websites about commentators clichés some of which I'll share shortly.

Clichés are expressions, ideas, or elements of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel. 

So there we have it they are overused phrases to the point of becoming annoying and even nonsensical. Let's have some examples.

“It was a great ball in, but there was no one on the end of it.”
Well, it wasn’t a great ball in then!

“Those type of decisions tend to even themselves out over a season.”
Since when did footballer pundits believe in the Buddhist principle of karmic retribution?

“He’s found it hard to settle into the pace of the Premier League.”
His Argentinian wife hates living in Sunderland.

“Relegation dogfight”
Level on points with three games to go.

“But will he like it on a wet Wednesday night up at Newcastle?”
Guaranteed comment after an impressive début from Arsenal’s new foreign signing.


There are shed loads of clichés about all sorts of events and it's interesting from a writer's point of view to think about the reasons behind their usage. Fairly obviously they are meant to be descriptive, they are meant to encapsulate emotion, and they're meant to be smart. There is also a certain degree of the euphemistic included. However, some are just blatantly wrong as in the first example and some are just plain silly like,

'it was a game of two halves'
(isn't football always thus?)

All the above is not just me having a go at the beautiful game and those associated with it, but rather airing frustrations that seem to impede the quality of the sport. I was brought up to watch football commentated on by one man who was never seen and with not a single 'expert' in the studio to help me interpret the evidence of my own eyes. 
(Definition of an expert - an old drip under pressure!)

Having said that, when writing, there may be a place for the well turned cliché. They can take the form of a much used saying by a character in a book. The one that comes to mind immediately is Ian Fleming's phrase given to James Bond regarding his cocktail - 'shaken not stirred'. This has become the catchphrase which in itself has inaccuracies that were pointed out to me by a barman quite recently.


The chap that serves behind the bar in my local informed me that if a cocktail is shaken, the amount of water in the drink cannot be controlled as easily and so they tend to be weaker. Having your cocktail stirred produces a stronger drink as I found out with the Vesper Martini he made me.

Even so giving a central character a cliché/catchphrase may have a positive outcome on marketability. 

Returning to the World Cup theme, I do hope that England do well and if I was a practising wizard I'd do my best to cast a silence spell on the so-called experts in an effort to more fully appreciate the games I watch for myself, without my senses being battered by a plethora of senseless drivel.

God Bless