"A Bit Ordinary, Really"

One of the coolest things I've noticed about rugby commentators across the English-speaking world (except for American commentators, who are embarrassing to listen to), from England to New Zealand, is their use of the word "ordinary".

The word ordinary means "of a kind to be expected in the normal order of events". Although ordinary is no great thing, it's no disgrace either, is it?

To rugby commentators it is. The fullback punts the ball out on the full, which means the opposing team will get a scrum where the fullback kicked from: "that was a bit of an ordinary kick, really." Two players are racing down the sideline together, with a two-on-one break, sure to score a try, but they throw an errant pass out of bounds: "that pass was a bit ordinary."

It's not that rugby commentators refuse to use strong negative words, but they tend to reserve them for foul play, or perhaps for a gaffe that will cost a team the game.

There is involved here, of course, just a whiff of that Britannic embarrassment for saying anything explicitly negative about someone. This Britannic tendency to understatement combines so beautifully with the sporting drive for excellence that the most scathing thing that can be said of a player is that he's shown himself to be ordinary. It drives home the point that greatness is expected at all times. I love it.

And I love the understatement. It's more cutting to say "a bit ordinary" than "ordinary", because it sounds like you're trying to be kind.

[caption id="attachment_9858" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption=""I'm afraid that was a bit ordinary, really.""][/caption]