The English Pedant – Say “bye” to by

The world of sport is an endless fund of linguistic mutations, and although I can’t speak for the US-based variants (the old chestnut being that their idea of football involves little use of the feet except for running on), the UK’s sports media secretly love to subvert the language and use it in ways that outsiders don’t.

Thus the football community owns an expression, “early doors”, which means “in the early stages of a match”. It is not clear who first said this or why, but we heard it, were amused by it and people have been using it since the 1970s. “We need to come out of the traps well and dominate early doors,” a manager will say, meaning he wants a bright, energetic start followed by a commanding performance by his team. In this case that’s a greyhound racing expression followed by one plucked from the air, and it can’t be helpful to a body of players drawn from all over the world. Still, a salary in the region of £100,000 a week should go some way towards making up for not understanding what the coaching staff are saying.

British football writers currently have a preferred expression for a situation in which a player or club is fast approaching some kind of figurative milestone: closing in.

“Harry Kane is closing in on 25 goals for the season” or “Leicester City are closing in on their first ever league title.” There are other ways of putting it, but this one has been chosen presumably because it has a slight sense of drama, like a hunter closing in on his prey.

Verbal fashion being as flighty as it is, the whole of British sport has summarily dumped the word “by” in describing who did something. “From” has replaced it.

So when it is a shot by Jamie Vardy, it is now reported as a shot from Jamie Vardy.

Does this sort of thing make any difference?  A better question might be “does it do any harm?” And the answer is that it is only harmful if you’re the sort of sensitive pedantic soul who notices these things and sees them as the slight rash that heralds the deadly disease that will eventually kill somebody.

The vast majority don’t notice, don’t care and don’t care if anyone else cares. Just be informed that the word from is closing in on annihilating one sense of the word by.

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