Sport's words of the year for 2017

Columnists are flagging and the end-of-year audits are piling up; of moments, personalities, achievements, goals. But what of the commodity that keeps this whole operation going? How was 2017 for words, asks Larry Ryan.

Sport's words of the year for 2017

Oxford Dictionaries anointed ‘Youthquake’ word of the year, a word I’ve yet to hear said, or written, away from the context of it being word of the year.

So it may not have been a golden year. And sport’s contributions to the language have, on the face of it, been modest.

The main man, Paul Merson, the creative genius — at least since Big Ron’s exile — simply trotted out his greatest hits — the Desmonds and the gillions and the beans on toasts — while resting on the laurels that gave us the ‘worldy’, long accepted parlance for any goal out of the top, top drawer.

Brian Kerr did his bit, as always. Before Fifa finalise arrangements for VAR, somebody in Zurich should be cognisant of his approved terminology for the act of drawing officials’ attention to an incident: “I don’t think the ref saw it, he must have got the billy off the linesman.”

Brian also noted this year that Jose Mourinho had a face on him “like a robber’s dog”, an observation that might have been made before or after virtually any game.

Mourinho’s dark mood was in keeping with a year when nearly everything in sport became ‘toxic’ at some point, a spillage from real life where it has been accepted that masculinity itself is toxic.

Now, after the first hint of dissatisfaction in a sporting arena, it is decided that the atmosphere has grown ‘toxic’, which leads us to the year’s other great sporting etymologist, Troopz.

Troopz shot to prominence as the most irate member of the Arsenal Fan TV stable, bringing the ‘fam, blud’ vernacular of the London streets to a wider audience via his despair with Arsene Wenger.

“The man is a fraud, fam... you understand? Be real. This is bullshit, blud, you get me? I’ve had enough of this shit, fam. I’ve had enough.”

‘Fraud’ was actually an early contender for word of 2017, before it was gradually taken on board that Pep Guardiola may not be quite so fraudulent as some had adjudged.

By the year-end, passive disillusionment had taken the baton from anger, in life and sport. ‘Done’ is the popular new lament. “I’m done with Wenger. Done.” It means Troopz is yesterday’s man, but the great survivor survives.

While the essential futility of all human communication was laid bare by Mourinho’s insistence he ‘doesn’t speak’ about referees or injuries while talking of nothing else.

Maybe because everybody is ‘woke’ now, it was also the year the GAA became truly comfortable with using the term ‘physical specimen’ to describe any player with evident muscle tone. Lee Chin takes most of the credit.

But ‘interference’ was the word of summer, of the ‘helmet’ and ‘minor physical with an official’ varieties.

And there was a testimony to the GAA’s renowned regard for accuracy of language in Tipp county secretary Tim Floyd’s admirable submission to Congress for a comprehensive definition of the word ‘melee’. Is it three in or five in? We might soon know.

The GAA’s long-standing efforts were also rewarded by the globalisation of ‘savage’, elected among the international slang words of the year with the likes of ‘extra’ (trying too hard), ‘low-key (‘I’m low-key loving the new Arvo Party album’), and hundo-p (100% — ‘I’m backing Klopp, hundo-p’).

Out in the wide world, savage means “totally cool and badass”, so the transition has been seamless from savage hunger and honesty. Give the prize to Cody since he won nothing else.

Elsewhere, the clickbaiters were on 24/7 alert for exhibitions of ‘class’. An inter-county player humouring a kid for an autograph is an act of ‘sheer class’ worth 1,000 likes. If he has just lost a game, he ‘oozes class’ and is in retweet clover.

McGregor contributed little to class and much to toxicity with his reliance on old bad words.

But rugby was productive as ever, inventing a new term every five minutes, none of them remotely necessary, in their attempts to dress up the modest spectacle. ‘Latches’ grew in popularity. “Munster getting the latches right,” whenever there is any kind of messy grappling.

Off-piste, they are working hard. Swedish snowboarder Sven Thorgren landed a “cab twelve sixty double shifty rewind roast beef” one Ski Sunday. And England cricketer Craig Overton revived the ‘audi’ (think car badge) when he avoided the ignominy of four successive ducks on his Ashes debut.

The mainstream, though, brought a worrying lack of true innovation. I tried to row in, but there has been no takeup for ‘fanlasticity’ — surely a vital word to describe the phenomenon of football supporters losing interest based on how much players are being paid. Many elastics snapped with Neymar.

But where are the sporting equivalents to ‘broflake’ or ‘antifa’ or ‘milkshake duck’?

‘Raumdeuter’ is gaining recognition in the company of ‘regista’ and ‘trequartista’ — it refers to a wide player who gets into unusual positions to score goals.

Thomas Muller kicked it off, a couple of years ago, when he announced “Ich bin ein Raumdeuter” — “I’m an interpreter of space.” But it is Die Mannschaft teammate Mesut Ozil that handed sport its biggest missed opportunity in 2017, and served worrying notice that regard for the value of words is not what it was.

Ozil showcased again, against Liverpool last week, his unique finishing technique that involves jamming the ball into the ground so it pops over an advancing keeper.

It is not a dink, a chip, a lift, or a prod. It is more of a squirt or a pinch. It’s certainly not a ‘scuff’, as Jamie Carragher defamed. The golfers are calling it a ‘chunk’, the pool players a ‘jump shot’; I reckon it’s a ‘squidge’.

Ozil, like Panenka and Cruyff were allowed, is probably entitled to put his own name on it.

But on Match of the Day, they had nothing at all to call it and pressed on with their mundane worries about shape and indiscipline.

It was another reminder we lost a great wordsmith this year. Jimmy Magee would not have left this vacuum unfilled.

Flash effort pulls no strings

It was a game attempt but we learned this week that Peter Stringer’s ‘candid’ photoshoot in The Times recently was not enough to convince the Worcester Warriors that he is entirely invulnerable to the passing of time.

Peter posed naked as the day he was born, proving his professed obsession with being in “the best possible shape” at 40.

But the Warriors still cut all Strings this week when his contract expired.

A wasted effort, then, but as the Examiner’s Martin Claffey pointed out, Strings couldn’t call upon Tony Cascarino’s favoured tactic at renewal time; Dying his hair.

Turn page on calendar guff

The Harry Kane calendar year record nonsense is grating, but at least it’s a relatively victimless crime against football’s natural rhythms.

Much more damaging is the ongoing persistence with Premier League records. Gilesy flogged this hobby horse one more time on Newstalk this week. And of course he is right yet again. It’s simply a polishing of modern brands to the exclusion of old heroes like Jimmy Greaves and Dixie Dean. Now squeezed out of the conversation.

Duffer puts Rovers in driving seat

Just as we held an official requiem for the ‘street footballer’ last weekend, Shamrock Rovers prove not everyone has given up on getting kids back out having fun with a ball.

A brilliant video series features Rovers coaches Glenn Cronin and Damien Duff demonstrating a series of old ball games across a Tallaght street, all useful in improving a youngster’s touch. There’s the obligatory hashtag, #FootballLovesUs, and Duffer makes a delightfully deadpan sidekick. Now let’s hope the drivers of the area play ball.

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