Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: The weird, wonderful language of sport

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Israel Dagg of the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images
Israel Dagg of the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images

Sport has its own language and codes have their own sub-brand vernacular.

We know the Olympics are imminent because we are getting the dress-rehearsal stories about the state of the accommodation in Rio, the bathroom facilities and how many condoms teams will be packing.

I guessed it was the next step when a story emerged about how to stop runners bonking.

However an in-depth discussion with one of NZME's finest long-distance athletes, informed me it was an American slang term for hitting the wall (I thought it was athletes getting all hot 'n heavy).

Some similarities apparently. Blood glucose levels slump, muscles fatigue as the body stalls and lurches to the finish.

What are the best words in sport? Which terms or idioms ooze descriptive power in our sporting vocabulary or leave us bamboozled?

Gaffer has always been a beauty in English soccer along with nutmeg, plating is not bad in baseball, jockeying for position or nailed-it are used across a variety of codes.

Sticky wicket evokes Geoffrey Boycott batting at treacle pace on an awkward track in a sport where New Zealand regularly punches above its weight. A wicket can have a lot of bite while disgruntled captains chastise their cafeteria bowlers. Chin music is unpleasant, hoicks and cow corner can be messy and ducks are to be avoided.

We're in the middle of the rugby and league seasons, although there is a Super Rugby sinbin this weekend and the Warriors had a bye last round. But there'll be enough hospital passes, black dots, chicken-wings, facials, flops, handovers, red zones, strips and surrenders for five tackle kick followers to fill their jumpers.

Why do they play to love in tennis, watch out for the death cookies while skiing, what's with the snatch in weightlifting, the frozen rope, icing a game, an albatross and a jigger.

Next week the All Blacks and Taffs will meet in their first test where counter-rucks, grubbers looseheads, phases, trucks, trailers and wheeling will get a vocal workout.

However, forward passes have been recalibrated to flat, corner posts don't count, wheeling has morphed into through the 90, hands at the breakdown is rucking, cleanouts are now applauded.

Maybe we should stick to body language and bonking.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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