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2 posts from December 2015

22 December 2015

Sports Word of the Year 2015

Jonnie Robinson, Lead Curator of Spoken English, writes:

It's that time of year again when clubs, societies, institutions and industries reflect on the previous twelve months and nominate people, events or phenomena for special recognition. In November, for instance, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) stunned linguists and pedants alike by choosing a pictograph – the ‘face with tears of joy’ emoji as their Word of the Year; VLM reviewers deliberated the merits of Foals’ What Went Down and Tame Impala’s Currents for their Album of the Year; and on Sunday BBC Sports Personality of the Year was awarded to Andy Murray. So, in a year where, despite recent events on the football pitch, Jose Mourinho’s outstanding contribution to our sporting lexicon drew academic attention, here are my nominations for Sports Word of the Year 2015 selected from examples of interesting English usage in the British sporting press and media:


February (BBC online Cricket World Cup live update) [Tim Southee] sends down an absolute jaffa which cuts Dilshan in half

May (Guardian Sport): [Martin Guptill] made a brief and extremely eye-catching return to crowd-pleasing one-day stylings with this massive six to cow corner

June (Mike Selvey, Guardian Sport): Tim Southee joined a pretty exclusive club of Test pace bowlers who have conceded a gallon in both innings of a Test

June (ex-Aussie cricketer Jason Gillespie, Radio 5 Live): we’re not playing for sheep stations

July (Jim Maxwell, Test Match Special, Radio 5 Live): 120 looks a bit too skinny for Australia to defend

September (Robert Kitson quoting Orrel Director of Rugby, Ian Hollis, Guardian Sport): around here they still think union’s a game of kick and clap

September (Robert Kitson, Guardian Sport): he doesn’t care where he’s playing, who he’s playing against or what Twickenham alickadoos make of his appearance

November (Jamie Jackson, Guardian Sport): The victory was a triumph for Klopp’s gegenpressing ethos

November (George Riley, England vs. New Zealand Rugby League First Test, BBC1): if ifs and buts were chips and putts we’d all be Gary Player

December (John Rawling, Fighting Talk, Radio 5 Live): Dennis Wise a nasty little five footer

The dominance of cricket and rugby in this year’s nominations reflects the fact 2015 featured a Cricket World Cup, an Ashes series and Rugby Union World Cup, but golf and football also make the cut. Seven items are restricted to the discourse of their respective sports of which three are international cricketing slang: cow corner is an area on the leg-side boundary to which a batsman plays an ‘agricultural’, i.e. unconventional slog; a jaffa is an unplayable delivery; and if a bowler concedes 100 runs in a single innings he has the dubious distinction of recording a gallon – the less desirable equivalent of a batsman’s century or ton; kick and clap is used by British Rugby League fans as an expression of disdain for Rugby Union deriving from a typical Union crowd’s penchant for politely clapping repeated passages of kicking in contrast to League supporters’ enthusiastic encouragement of running and passing; alickadoo is used within Rugby Union circles, equally disparagingly, to refer to a somewhat out of touch ‘hanger-on’ or feckless club administrator; gegenpressing refers, in football, to the tactic of collectively pressurising the opposition immediately after a turnover of possession; and a Dennis Wise is golfing shorthand for a relatively short but annoyingly scary putt – a jocular reference to ex-professional footballer, Dennis Wise, who had a reputation for confrontation despite his diminutive stature. Two are idiomatic expressions: not playing for sheep stations is an Australian phrase roughly equivalent to ‘it’s not a matter of life and death’; while if ifs and buts were chips and putts we’d all be Gary Player adds a sporting twist to a well-known saying – Gary Player is a South African professional golfer and nine-times major winner; finally skinny refers here to an uncompetitively low run total.

Most importantly, the ten have been selected as they demonstrate a range of linguistic phenomena, from jargon and slang to dialect and proverb. Perhaps surprisingly not many are documented in conventional dictionaries or glossaries, so their presence in the BL’s newspaper collections and/or TV and radio archives represents an invaluable record for language scholars investigating developments in the English language. The OED (online) includes skinny as a colloquial form for ‘mean/stingy/grudging’, which captures the way it is used in northern dialect and one can readily see how, by extension, this might apply to a low score in cricket – sports reporters often refer, for instance, to a ‘miserly defence’. The OED also has an entry for alickadoo, categorising it as originally Irish English, while John Miller’s Essential Lingo Dictionary of Australian Words and Phrases has an entry for playing for sheep stations (2015: 161). Geoff Tibball attributes Dennis Wise to British journalist and presenter, Des Kelly, in his compilation of sporting quotations, The Bowler’s Holding the Batsman’s Willy (2008: 189) and the Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (2005) includes the proverb if ifs and ands were pots and pans, there’d be no work for tinkers’ hands as a ‘traditional response to an over-optimistic conditional expression’ – i.e. a common retort to someone wistfully saying ‘if only …’. Coincidentally, a variant of this also made an appearance on a recent episode of Coronation Street (16 November 2015) when Erica Holroyd comforted Liz McDonald over her latest calamitous relationship break-up: as me mother always says if ifs and buts were whisky and nuts we’d all have a merry Christmas.


To my knowledge, none of the other terms have been captured in English print reference works. An internet search for gegenpressing, however, returns 219,000 hits so this is clearly well established sporting jargon. As a former German teacher, I find it a particularly intriguing loan word as it contains a German element gegen [= ‘against’] blended with an English gerund pressing. Similar constructions occur in German sporting discourse even when unidiomatic in English – das Dribbling, for instance. Like other loan words in football (cf. tiki-taka and catenaccio) the relish with which it has been adopted by the British press not only speaks volumes for the charisma of Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp, with whom it is most closely associated, but also reflects our constant desire to adopt the latest European tactical innovation. Cow corner, on the other hand, transports me to my schooldays and a Yorkshire cricket master, who viewed any shot in that direction with utter contempt. Neither this nor jaffa warrant entries in print dictionaries, but both appear in Wikipedia’s Glossary of Cricket Terms; gallon is surprisingly absent, but is included in a rival online cricket glossary, while kick and clap appears in League Freak's Rugby League Dictionary.

So to this year’s winner: much though I sympathise, as a Castleford Tigers fan, with the sentiment expressed in kick and clap and was delighted to see Kevin Sinfield come runner-up on Sunday, deep down even football fans with no affiliation to Liverpool (myself included) have to admit we’re all rather excited about the arrival of Jürgen Klopp, so it’s got to be gegenpressing, hasn’t it?

 

07 December 2015

Spare Rib Magazine Update

Since launching the Spare Rib digital site in May, we have been hard at work seeking former contributions to the ground-breaking feminist magazine, which is freely available for researchers, campaigners and all those interested in the magazine via Jisc Collections, to let them know their work is online and check they are happy with its inclusion.

We would like to share an update on some of the work we have been doing.

Since early summer, the Library has employed a former member of the Spare Rib collective along with a specialist rights clearance officer (whose considerable experience includes consulting for Who Do You Think You Are?) to help us undertake diligent searches for  former contributors. Their work is overseen by a project board chaired by the Chief Librarian and which is supported by the project's curator and project lead.

Other colleagues in the Library have also been highly involved, bringing to bear collections, rights and digitisation expertise, as well as building enhanced IT systems to record this activity. Taking into account the work of all the teams, the time spent is equivalent to two years’ full-time work.

We have shared information on authors, photographers and artists with trade and representative bodies, including the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), the Society of Authors, Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS), Association of Author’s Agents, National Union of Journalists’ (NUJ) Photographers’ Council and the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies, and consulted numerous sources, including WATCH (Writers, Artists and their Copyright Holders), electoral registers and search engines such as Google. Others sources that we have used to attempt to identify rights holders, along with the groups and organisations we have reached out to, are listed on this earlier blog post.

Since May, we have reviewed the information that we hold on over 4,500 rights holders, and will shortly write for a third time to all those not listed in the databases held by the groups listed above and for whom we have not had a response; this amounts to over 800 rights holders, and over 1,600 letters and emails.

We remain unable to locate all authors, photographer and artists, so as well as asking those who believe they may have been contributors to check the online magazine to find their items, we have been actively posting lists of names of contributors on the British Library website. A list of those photographers, visual artists and authors for whom we have a name but no contact details is available here.

Importantly, we have been meeting regularly with the trade bodies and societies listed above,  and we are pleased to report that we arranging a workshop early next year on issues around mass digitisation with help from the Association of Author’s Agents, ALCS, BAPLA, DACS, the National Union of Journalists’ Photographers’ Council, the Copyright Licensing Agency and the Publisher Licensing Society. We look forward to sharing more information about this event shortly.

As ever, if you contributed to the magazine, and have not heard from us to contact sparerib@bl.uk or visit our permissions site at www.bl.uk/spare-rib/rights

Please do contact us if you have any questions about the project, or can help us identify further contributors.

Polly Russell, Project Curator
Matthew Shaw, Project Lead