Submitted by Hairy Scot on May 14, 2014

Are sports commentators and sports show anchors out to change the language?

All of a sudden spectators are not “looking on” but “watching on”. Does that make them onwatchers?

They no longer say “welcome to” but “welcome along to”.

“Early on” has become “early doors”.

Players now “contest for” the ball.

They now “update you” with the latest scores.

To me all of that is rather more idiotic than idiomatic.       :-))

I’m sure there are many more examples that I have (thankfully) missed.

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"Early doors" - is especially associated with English football, and with commentator Ron Atkinson in particular - one Telegraph writer wondered "Does Big Ron ask his wife if she might get breakfast ready early doors?" A couple of books, though, suggests its football use started in 1979 with Brian Clough, in an interview, - "Early doors, it was vital that they (the players) liked me" (Who Invented the Stepover?:and other crucial football conundrums, by Paul Simpson, Uli Hesse)

It is apparently now popular with commentators, footballers and fans alike. It seems to me as if it probably started off as an in-joke among the footballing fraternity, and just stuck. Its history goes back well before its use in football, however, with its roots in nineteenth-century theatre, where by paying a premium you could go in early and avoid the crush - this was known as 'early doors'. There are a couple of books about old Music Hall with this phrase in the title .

A letter-writer to the Telegraph remembers his grandparents using it like this in the 1930s. In fact there seems to have been quite a lot of discussion about the phrase in the Telegraph.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=early+...

By 1908, the expression had reached Australia: this is from the New South Wales parliamentary register for that year - "The swindle was worked in this way : people who wanted to get decent seats in a theatre waited outside in queue order, and had to pay an additional shilling for early doors." Six years later, in the Australian parliamentary records, this appeared: "We have been told that it was a packed meeting which was held in the Sydney Town Hall—that. is to say, that the hall would not hold more people, that the early doors were rushed".

There's another theory that it was what people who arrived early at pubs after afternoon closing were called, an idea picked up in the title of a BBC sitcom called 'Early Doors', which is set in a pub. In another letter to the Telegraph, the witer suggests that it is often used with that meaning in the Midlands - "I'll meet you in the Red Lion, early doors."

In his dictionary of slang, Eric Partridge apparently thought it was Cockney rhyming slang for women's drawers (the undergarment), dating it from 1870.

G.K.Chesterton, amongst others, pointed out that it was a British battle cry in the First World War. This is from a pamphlet, The Retreat from Mons, published in 1914 - "A party of the King's Own went into one battle shouting out, 'Early doors this way! Early doors, ninepence!' ". And from the Fortnightly Review of 1917: "I cannot imagine any but a British regiment rushing into the hell of the machine-gun fire with the cry of 'Early doors sixpence extra' ".

Returning to sport, it's obviously spread beyond football: here is rugby player Will Greenwood writing in the Telegraph - "One black mark: he should have scored early doors, he must learn to get them down." And the Telegraph even used in the financial pages (I presume tongue-in-cheek) - "It's early doors for the Grand National bookmakers" (the favourite had won the National).

You can read about it here - http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-ear1.htm

The history of English expressions can be rather fascinating when you start Googling around and looking in Google Books. Given its varied and colourful history, I've rather warmed to this phrase.

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@WW

Thanks for the interesting and informative post. :)

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@HS - But I thank you; I'd never heard of "early doors" before, but it looks as though it's now moving outside sporting circles. "Watching on", incidentally, was apparently coined by Jonathan Pearce of BBC Radio 5 Live. Another one for your collection - "a big ask".

A quick look at Google Search suggests that "to contest for the ball" is primarily an Australian expression. As far as I can see, all first ten instances of "contest for the ball" on Google where contest is a verb are Australian, and the expression seems to be used in football, rugby and Australian rules football alike.

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@WW

Listening to antipodean sports commentators and sport show anchors is very often like hearing fingernails on a blackboard.
At least the utterances of David Coleman, Eddie Waring, and Sid Waddell had a saving grace;
they were/are amusing!

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My first question would be: English has changed a bit since William the Bastard and his mates landed in 1066 to undertake a social redevelopment program; under what circumstances is it okay to make changes now?

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My expanded take on the history of 'early doors', illustrated with lots of examples from the past and present - http://random-idea-english.blogspot.com/2014/06...

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I can understand your problems with all but "update you". I suppose "give you an update/updates" would be better, but I don't see a big deal with "update you", although it could be construed as if you were a model that needed an upgrade of some kind. What's the context of "welcome along to"?

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@jayles
There is change and there is bastardisation.
Just depends on one's point of view I suppose.

@Jasper
"Welcome along to match of the day" is one that springs to mind.

Just heard a couple of others earlier today:-
The expected penalty did not eventuate. :-))
Another was the use of allude instead of mention.
It seems that commentators believe the two are synonymous.

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@HS Yes indeed. I am mighty curious as to how you arrive at your own point of view.

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" jayles the ungreedy
May 26, 2014, 12:31am
@HS Yes indeed. I am mighty curious as to how you arrive at your own point of view"

Just one of life's little mysteries I suppose. :-))

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Until his recent lamented demise, the sports commentator Coleman was the butt of a column in the UK entitled Colemanballs, which if googled will provide much occasion for mirth. It does not mean in any way that his marvellous and original contributions to the way we put things are now official English, of course, for if they were they would not be Colemanballs, now, would they? Just Colemanisms.

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As I remember, the Colemanballs column, in Private Eye magazine, wasn't reserved specifically for Coleman's own slip-ups, but for any funny gaffes made by sports commentators, and rather, was named in his honour. The column's scope has now been widened, and its name changed accordingly, to 'Mediaballs'. But elsewhere, the word Colemanballs is certainly used for his particular gaffes.

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My favourite Colemanball is "And Coe just opened his legs and showed his class!"

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