“Sport”

I know Michael Sokolove. Michael Sokolove is a friend of mine. I have not served in the Senate with Michael Sokolove, but I have broken bread with him and played basketball with him and happen to know he hails from Lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania. And so I was surprised to read him say–in a Q and A  at the New York Times website regarding his excellent recent article about Oscar Pistorius:

One of the great things about sport is that it is in some ways primitive, or we want to imagine it is.

The surprising thing was that he said sport, a Britishism, rather than the American sports. (We do, however, refer to baseball as a sport and to a person asa good sport.)I asked him about it and he blamed it on his English son-in-law.

But Sokolove is not alone. Times columnist David Brooks, theorizing on the Jeremy Lin phenomenon, recently wrote:

The moral ethos of sport is in tension with the moral ethos of faith, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim. The moral universe of modern sport is oriented around victory and supremacy.

A headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer late last year read: “Money, not sport, the name of the game.” And a while back, Slate had this one: “Politics and sport: a dangerous mix.”

The next thing you know, we’ll be talking about maths.

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22 responses to ““Sport”

  1. As a math major in college and to a certain extent still one at heart, I gag on “maths”. Indeed, it’s not a term I ever hear, although Google’s Ngram Viewer shows its picking up steam way back around 1980, with varying ups and downs on both sides of the pond.

    • Live Example: On last week’s Graham Norton Show on BBC America, Goldie Hawn, speaking about the Mind Up program for schools she’s bringing to the UK: “I want to say to children who aren’t so good at reading, ‘You can get better.’ Sometimes math is harder….” Brit Marcus Brigstocke, sitting next to her, responded, “I think maths is harder.”

    • Tonight, TCM showed René Clément’s “Jeux interdits” (a.k.a. “Forbidden Games”) for its 60th anniversary. I’m thinking the English subtitles were done by a Brit. Why? In one scene, Father tells Son, “Do your maths.” The term is used twice in a later subtitle, as well.

  2. I still can’t get used to “maths” at all, but I did catch myself saying “in hospital” the other day, which I blame on my excessive consumption of BBC UK sourced pop culture.

  3. Also, why did my name show up as “Phirehire” for that first comment? Stupid AJAX.

  4. In the recent past, we had Sport as a familiar tag: “Old sport.”

  5. …and a pair of pants has evolved into “a pant.”

  6. When we get to “round the houses” we’ll know we’re reaching complete subjugation.

  7. @Hal:

    In Singapore, though not Britain, they also use “econs” for economics (as an academic discipline).

  8. In any high school in the U.S. students take Econ.
    Words tend to shrink.

    • And at university in college, they take Poli Sci, Bio, Psych, Lit, Sosh(iology), Anthro, and Chem. As my friend Wayne Cotter, the comedian, says, “Me too busy to say whole word.”

  9. Mitt Romney, speaking at the Daytona 500 on Feb. 26: “This combines a couple of things I like best–cars and sport.” At :50 in this Daily Show clip: http://gaw.kr/wPd32v

    Jon Stewart counters: “Here in the human world, we call things like NASCAR ‘sportsss.'”

  10. And it’s rumored in the real world
    that Romney likes to sport jeans over his real pant.

  11. Steve: Why would it be funnier?
    And we more or less did away with “sort of.”

  12. I think I heard someone on the radio the other morning (315 am – don’t ask) refer to an upcoming game “with Penguins.” Not “with the Penguins,” mind you. And they were’t going to be playing with penguins. They were going to be playing hockey, an upcoming game “with Penguins.” Now it was spoken, not written, but who knows the innovation starts?

  13. “Where” the innovation starts, of course. And me a proofreader.

  14. In biology a sport is a freak of nature.

  15. When “sport” is being contrasted with “faith” or “money,” a singular kind of makes sense as more parallel. With “politics” or “cars,” though, that excuse fails – “politics and sport” sounds especially jarring.

  16. Pingback: “Sport” sighting in New York Times | Not One-Off Britishisms

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