Sports metaphors, I wish I could quit you

oly3066I know some people strongly dislike sports metaphors used in business writing, and anywhere else. Too male-centric; often confusing for people not raised here; and so on.

 But I’ve noticed it’s difficult to avoid some metaphors because I often can’t think of a non-sports equivalent that works as well; example, moving the goalposts. If one party in a negotiation suddenly comes up with a different starting point, what is a better way to say that? “Party A has revised their original position”? “Party A has been given an inch, and now wants to take a mile”? (That gets the idea across, but it’s much wordier.)

 Or knock it out of the park.  What is better than “This is something she should knock out of the park”:

 “This is something she should really excel with?”

“This is something right up her alley?”  (Yawn)

Maybe move the goalposts is not such a bad expression, since it’s not something that ever actually happens in a game . . . of course, non-sports fans may assume it does, and that it’s just one more thing unfamiliar to them . . . 



3 thoughts on “Sports metaphors, I wish I could quit you

  1. Sports metaphors! Something I can only smile and nod at, not normally having the foggiest what they mean. OK, well ‘moving the goalposts’ is fairly obvious, if surreal; but I didn’t know what ‘knock it out of the park’ meant before.
    I’d always had a vague image of kids playing football in the park, where the goalposts are piles of coats, and balls are often booted too far. So both summoned up images of a fun kick-about interrupted by mildly annoying behaviour. How could I have been so wrong?!

    Thanks for the translation, maybe that could be a useful next post / book? ‘Sports metaphors for the sportily challenged’.

    • It sounds like you are writing from the UK? All the more reason for us yanks to avoid sports metaphors. ‘Knock it out of the park’ is a baseball term; I’m not sure if cricket has an out-of-bounds line for an equivalent . . .

  2. Gosh no, I wouldn’t either. And yes, guilty as charged, definitely a Brit 🙂 Maybe sports metaphors just need some subtle explanation, to help keep us foreigners keep up.

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