For many in the media who talk and write about sports, a refresher on grammar is badly needed.
Okay class, let’s start with a short, but important lesson on the use of the English language.
People must use the word “number’ when they’re describing anything that can be counted or measured. As example could be “The number of times I get gasoline in a month”, or “The number of yards from where I am on the golf course to the green.”
People need to use the word “amount” when they're talking about something that cannot be easily counted or measured. Examples include “The amount of love I’ve felt since the accident occurred”, or “The amount of water in the ocean.”
This is stuff we learned in grade school. Why is it then that so many people with jobs in the media, or people who do social media posts for organizations get it wrong? What’s really puzzling is, this rarely happened five or ten years ago. Now it seems to happen all the time. How did we go from people using the words number and amount correctly to now becoming so hit and miss?
Blame it on Sports Announcers
I’ve thought about this, because I have seen it before with certain words and phrases. I’m now ready to blame the people covering sports on TV for this. It’s the sports announcers who are changing some of the words and phrases we use.
A couple of years ago, I first noticed sports analysts using the words amount and number incorrectly. Now it happens far too often. I remember seeing a sports writer covering the Toronto Blue Jays for a Toronto paper writing "Danny Jansen has the same amount of home runs as Vladimir Guerrero Jr." in a social media post.
How can a professional writer for a big newspaper make such a simple mistake? Why do others do it so often now too? It’s so basic.
I think it’s because others have been doing it too. Monkey see, monkey do. When others start making mistakes with word usage and grammar, the lines of proper English get clouded.
A few years ago, I started to hear sports analysts using the word “oftentimes.” I wondered if this was even a word and looked it up. It is and has been for decades. However, why not just use the word “often”? It means the same thing. I don’t know about you, but I hate it when perfectly good short words get replaced by something longer.
The problem is, when people hear these words while watching a game on TV, or hearing sports guys talk about something, they pick up on the language and use it themselves. When somebody I’m now talking to uses the word oftentimes I silently groan and wonder if they would have used the word often a decade ago?
"Yeah" is another example. A couple of years ago I noticed sports TV types starting responses with the word yeah. Now it happens all the time, including with the people I do media training for. You don't need it. It's a useless word.
For years we’ve heard former jocks now doing colour commentary using phrases like “all game long” and “all year long.” People use the same jargon, not stopping for a second to realize the word “long” is redundant.
Once again though, monkey see monkey do.
Sports has given us all kinds of unique ways of using words. “Chemistry” is one of my favouites. I’m not really sure what it means, but it seems to be the same as teamwork.
“Net front presence” is a nice term the hockey analysts now use. We use to say “Parked in front of the net.” Net front presence sounds much more important.
Some American hockey analysts started using the word “bumper position” a few years now and I’m now starting to hear it in Canada. For those who don’t know what the bumper position is, well, it’s the slot. Why have we started to call the slot the bumper position?
We used to say a defenceman “pinched” or “pinched in” if he moved forward into a more offensive role. Now the colour commentators say “He activated.’ Why?
We used to hear hockey colourmen talk about a player who “raised the puck”. Now we’re hearing how he “elevated it.” It’s the same thing. Why a new word to describe it? Wasn’t raise doing the job?
In football, analysts use the phrase “dialed up” as an action phrase to describe a defence called by a coach. A defensive coach can no longer “call” a specific defence, he now must “dial it up.”
Oh and in sports, a team or player cannot just struggle. They have to “struggle mightily.” That apparently is the only way one can struggle.
The problem is, when people hear those in the media using these terms, they use them too. Something that started with one or two former jocks, now is used by thousands of people.
And by the way, it’s number not amount, damn it!