Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Language still matters

Last October, I wrote about how frequently tennis commentators use other sports as metaphors to describe tennis, and how this habit contributes to the general cultural lack of respect for tennis. As I wrote then, football, baseball and soccer commentators do not use tennis metaphors--or even other major sport metaphors--to describe the action in their sports. They feel no need to use a "more important" sport as a reference point.

Since I wrote that post, I have heard "like batting practice," "right off the bat," "counter-puncher," "home run hit," and several similar metaphors over and over from the mouths of tennis commentators. Today, Dick Enberg hit a new low (if that is even possible) by describing Justine Henin's top-of-her-game retirement as "Think of a champion boxer retiring." No! Think of it for what it is, please: A champion tennis player retires while she is number one in the world. That is quite grand enough, thank you.

Reference points in language are clues to how we value certain entities. Just as women will never be respected as long as they permit themselves to be called guys, dudes and sportsmen, tennis will not be respected as long as it is always linguistically compared with other sports.

Language matters.


Todd Spiker said...

I generally agree that commentators do use other sports metaphors as a crutch to describe things in tennis. Although, I should say that I do occasionally hear announcers in other sports use lines like "the game is/was on his/her racquet," or "game, set, match." But they probably stand out more because it's not the norm.

I particularly like it when the "racquet" one is used. ;)

Diane said...

I've never heard that, and I'm delighted to know that commentators sometimes say it. I do hear "game, set, match" used as a metaphor for other things, though. Nice. Thanks for the info, Todd.