30 October 2007

foreign grass

this past weekend i watched some of the NFL's first regular season game held overseas (yes, when i'm not actively being a linguist i'm frequently watching sports). the game was at the new Wembley Stadium in London. during the pregame, Fox's announcing crew was getting disproportionately excited about the whole event, as i'm sure their producers and the NFL instructed them to do. the strangest part of their reporting came when Tony Siragusa, the sideline reporter, gave an update on the playing conditions.

now i don't have an audio or video recording of exactly what it said, so i hope i'm not embellishing too much, but he said something along the lines of:

now this isn't a field, it's what they call a pitch...
something in the way he said it just made it sound like "see this rectangular expanse of grass? well this is no American grass. this is crazy British grass, which is so different that they have to call it something else." to be fair, he did go on and explain the difference in the types of grass seed used and the cut and drainage of the field—and these differences did play a factor, as the Giants and Dolphins churned up the ground into little more than mud during the course of the game. it was just the way that a simple lexical choice was preyed upon to create such drama, throwing arbitrariness of the sign out the window. i could imagine him standing next to the back end of a car in London reporting "now this car doesn't have a trunk, it's got what they call a boot! what will they think of next?"

in any event, it bugged me. i'm sure most American viewers barely noticed, and i'm not even sure if the game was broadcast in England. if it was, they were all probably watching Liverpool - Arsenal anyway.

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