Quick single: avoiding prodigious turn

Earlier in the summer, watching the 1st Test between West Indies and Australia, I was excited to see Devendra Bishoo tease the Australian middle-order. I wrote about how he turned the ball sharply to get Steven Smith stumped and to bowl Brad Haddin. At first, I typed the words ‘prodigious turn’ to describe the delivery that had defeated Haddin. The phrase emerged easily onto the screen, but snagged my eye as I re-read the finished sentence. With a little thought, a bit more effort, I altered the description to something that didn’t cause discomfort when re-reading it.

I had avoided ‘prodigious turn’ and had identified a foe, a representative of a class of expression that I wanted to sidestep. With the ‘quick singles and short pitches’ initiative, I committed to writing more regularly. The faster pace of composition would mean less opportunity to reflect on my writing and the greater temptation to lean on familiar formulations in the rush to press the ‘publish’ button.

The particular class of expression I have wanted to evade is not the sport’s slang (e.g. ‘good areas’), nor is it cliche (e.g. ‘catches win matches’) because I would expect to steer clear of both.  It’s a budding cliche; something that when it was first coined was probably fresh and distinctive. It involves the use of adjectives or verbs that are unusual and might give the writer a sense of erudition. But the sense is false, because the words are a formula.

I can think of two situations in which these expressions are used. The first is when a cricketer is spending her first days in the commentary box and there isn’t time to measure every word. The familiar but more sophisticated sounding formulations give more weight to utterances, so it seems. The second situation is in recreational cricket where the terms are used archly as players act out a pretence of playing the same game, requiring the same level of description, as their international heroes.

You may have started to identify phrases that fit these criteria. I think of the following as being on a par with ‘prodigious turn’:

inserting the opposition’ and its synonym, ‘electing to field’

extracting movement from the pitch’

rank long-hop’

bisecting the field’

None of these is poor English. Originality cannot and probably should not always be sought by those writing about the game. These expressions, though, have become familiar and in their regular usage, some of their meaning is being lost. Language, of course, is not stable and I am also very aware that there is also personal taste at work. At the moment, I am reading a collection of John Arlott’s articles on cricket. In a piece written in 1983 about Derek Randall, he wrote this:

One would have expected one of his bubbling enthusiasm to bowl furiously fast; or very slow with prodigious spin.

Advertisements

Tags: , ,

About chrisps

TouchlineDad to three sporty kids; cricket blogger and coach; and the alpha male in our pride.

2 responses to “Quick single: avoiding prodigious turn”

  1. satanicmonkeys says :

    I have wondered why LBWs are always plumb. And at times ‘palpable’. That means something you can feel with your hands, in my line of work. Also, there has been a tendency among cricinfo writers to talk about balls swinging at ‘alarming pace’. Of commentators , there’s none worse than Ravi tracer bullet Shastri. The best reason to watch cricket with the sound turned off

    • chrisps says :

      LBW is a fertile area for use of florid but imprecise language to give a false sense of authority: “very adjacent” gets used uncritically. Thanks for commenting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: