I heard what seemed to me a significant language moment this week. England and Yorkshire cricketer Jonny Bairstow was being interviewed about the first test match in this summer's Pakistan tour – lost rather lamely by England, apparently – and moved onto some interesting linguistic ground when he talked of being "forced onto the back burner" by Pakistan's attack. That wasn't the significant moment, though. Sportsmen are notorious for the inanity of their metaphors, and that was probably a forgivable metaphorical mash-up, a forced error committed under pressure from Rob Bonnet's deceptively suave
Rob unexpectedly switched the questioning to the breaking issue of whether team selection should be taken away from the current panel and revert to the captain and coach. Jonny was suitably nonplussed. "That's a complete curve ball you've thrown me there, to be honest!" he protested. Which is extraordinary. Think about it: a professional English cricketer, asked about a cricketing matter, reaches for a baseball comparison. Not a googly, not a yorker, not a bouncer, or any of the native cricketing terms for a tricky ball to hit, but a curve ball. And a thrown ball at that! Indifferent as I am to ball games in general, I nonetheless experienced a moment of outrage. Which team are you playing for, Bairstow? Bat and pad, lad! Bat and pad!
It just goes to show, I suppose, how deeply Americanisms have penetrated the language. I was waiting for Bairstow to exhort England to "step up to the plate" in case they "strike out" in the second test, which would have been an easy boundary, but he didn't; maybe next time, fans of language sports! But, who knows, maybe this is a two-way process? Perhaps in the US professional players of various games are even now talking of "a sticky wicket" and "keeping a straight bat", and public figures are leaving the crease after a good innings?
Well, maybe. Cue Roy Harper.