Frank Deford on Language

frank defordIf you don’t know Frank Deford, you probably don’t listen to NPR. Deford is NPR’s sports guy, but Deford is sports with a difference. The sports industry is populated by, and let’s be real here, more than its fair share of nyuk-nyuks and chowderheads. Deford brings a much needed level of class and intelligence to the whole thing. GQ called him “the world’s greatest sports writer.” No argument here.

That’s why I was practically standing on my leather couch this morning cheering to hear Frank Deford decrying the sorry, lazy state of reportage in sports. He did it as an aside, but the message is clear. The communicators don’t communicate very well. Exhibit A:

“Have you ever noticed how most people say Brett Favre’s name in its entirety? He is usually referred to as not Brett, not Favre, but Brett Favre.” Deford wrote this in the November 11 edition of his NPR sports column, Sweetness and Light.

“This is nice at this dreadful time when most modern athletes are known by their initials or their number. Most times now, athletes say things like, “23 threw it to R.K., and then J-Broom scored.”

As a fellow English curmudgeon I agree wholeheartedly. There’s nothing more awful than hearing–or reading–the constant, willful mutilation of the language. I know, I know–language evolves. But there’s something lunkheaded somehow about much of it. Trying to edit someone who insists on using the word “bye” when they mean “buy” and vice versa is absolutely maddening. Ditto hearing people who are professional broadcasters transpose the s and k in the word “ask”.

It’s refreshing to hear someone from the sports world stand up for language in a forum completely unrelated to–but very affected by–the use of language in a professional context. It inspires organizational urges in me. I want to create a non-profit group of professionals dedicated to the effective use of the English language.

My only problem with this is that I’d be tempted to require all members to ride a motorcycle and terrorize anyone guilty of saying “lensed” when they mean “filmed” and those who abuse the apostrophe by writing “Closed Sunday’s” on their signs.

So I leave the organization to somebody else. Instead, I’ll dream of a day when people are referred to by their actual names instead of “A-Rod.”