It’s a cliché, but perhaps it’s fitting for the occasion – you’d have to be living on another planet to have not heard comedian Ed Byne’s bit on the Alanis Morissete song “Ironic.” Remember that song, “Ironic” […] She kept naming all these things in her song that were supposed to be ironic, and none of them were…they were all just unfortunate…Song should’ve been called “Unfortunate”…The only ironic thing about that song is that it’s called “Ironic” and it is written by a woman who doesn’t know what irony is. It’s no less funny now than it was ten years ago because it’s a scientific fact that we enjoy laughing at other people’s stupidity – it’s been a staple of comedy for thousands of years. What’s confusing then, is why not everyone is like me in picking up on every tiny faux pas and laughing in the faces of the less well-educated. Personally I blame television.
It was around five years ago that football commentators decided they weren’t annoying enough. No longer was David Pleat’s scything tongue mispronouncing the names of not just players like “Steed Malbranque,” but names which seemingly had no other pronunciation. How you mispronounce “James Beattie” is beyond me. So instead of just getting names wrong commentators decided they’d flounder with the basis of language itself. And in the world of football commentary, contrary to the views of Dave Gahan and Depeche Mode, it seems that words are very necessary. They did this by punching above their weight, using words which they don’t fully comprehend in an attempt to sound as intelligent/pretentious (delete as applicable) as possible. The aforementioned boxing metaphor provides an apt and seamless segue (not spelled ‘segway’) into my favourite piece of commentary of all time, courtesy of Steve Wilson:
“The goalkeeper looks like a boxer who’s been hit for six!”
This kind of mistake is forgivable, if not for its stupidity then for its charm. After all it’s worth remembering that football is such a magical game that even a professional such as Wilson could get caught up in the excitement. What is entirely unforgivable is the complete misuse of words from people who – let’s remember – are paid for their ability to speak. They tell stories through their language, they are modern day Shakespeares. Sort of. And there is one such word that has infested itself in the lexicon of football commentary like bacteria and is now slowly spreading across society. This word is fortuitous. As in, “He was fortuitous to get away with that tackle.” Let me quote Jenna Glatzer,[i] “fortuitous simply means happening by chance or accident. It does not mean a ‘happy accident’; the outcome of a fortuitous event can be good or bad.” If this mistake had only been made once or twice it probably would have eluded my eagle ear (or whatever the correct animal-ear analogy is), but it is being made so commonly that this mistake cannot be – wait for it – fortuitous. Sure, the two words are vaguely similar and there is a crossover – but it doesn’t make them interchangeable. For instance, compare the difference between misappropriate (to appropriate wrongly, as in to steal), and inappropriate(unsuitable or untimely). They come from the same word, the Latin ‘approprio’ – to make one’s own, but it doesn’t make them the same thing.
Football is the only sport in which I’ve come across the problem. Don’t ask me why, but it seems that in every other sport they hire people who can articulately describe the action. You’d never see John Rawling, or Michael Atherton, or even John Madden make mistakes like this. It would be too easy to blame our country’s obsession with getting the big names in, rather than someone who can actually do the job, so I won’t. But how else can you explain the presence of Jamie Redknapp and Joe Cole in the punditry booth?