Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The language of Sport – only mangle the grammar if you have to!


This is about adjectives. Is there a difference between an “Australian cricketer” and an “Australia cricketer” – aside from the fact that the former is a grammatically correct construct and the latter isn't. “Australia” is a proper noun not an adjective – “Australian” is the adjective which describes something or somebody that comes from Australia. OK - but what if there is confusion as there is in this case. An “Australian” cricketer might not be an international Australian cricketer. He/She could be any person of Australian nationality who plays cricket. So we introduce the ungrammatical but clearer “Australia cricketer” to describe the international. But do we need to? Take this entry in Wikipedia for example

List of Australia Test cricketers

There is no reason at all why the grammatically correct “Australian” could not be used here. The entry is defined as being about Test cricketers so there is no doubt what we are talking about. “List of Australian Test cricketers” would have exactly the same and equally unambiguous meaning – but it would be good grammar as well – why not use it?

Here’s another from SkyBet:

Ashes Top Australia Batsman Betting Odds

Again the use of “Australian” instead of “Australia” would be correct and not ambiguous. My contention is that in the vast majority of cases there is no need to use a noun as an adjective at all. In respect of the two examples which open this article why not use a slightly longer but grammatical term? So “Australian Test cricketer” or “Australian International cricketer” to avoid confusion. it sounds better as well. As is always the case in language clarity is everything. “Australian Cricketer” is ambiguous – out of context anyway. So if the context of the usage doesn't make it clear then clarify – e.g. by adding the word “Test”. There’s no need to screw up the grammar and to use nouns as adjectives – ever!'

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