Physicality?


Stanley Cup in Hockey Hall of Fame

The coveted Stanley Cup (Image via Wikipedia)

I heard a sports commentator today report that the Bruins won the Stanley Cup because later in the last game they started playing with physicality. Yup, that’s what the commentator said. So what is physicality anyway? It’s one of those sports-speak terms one hears all the time now, from announcers and commentators on sports news, sports channels and sports reporting. “He’s playing with real physicality now” the commentator says with genuine, straight-faced sincerity as if he’d just discovered something profound.  Oh, right, because before, when he was just running, kicking, tackling, punting, he WASN’T playing with physicality, he was just, well, playing?

It seems like physicality shouldn’t even be a word. It sounds like one of those made up words that sports commentators use. But turns out it is indeed a word after all. Random House Webster’s College Dictionary defines it thus:

“phy-si-ca-li-ty (fiz’ i kal’ i te) 1. the quality of being physical, especially when emphasized, or overemphasized.”

Okay, so basically physicality means being really, really physical. So if you’re playing a sport, running, throwing, tackling, whatever, you are indeed being physical, but if you’re playing really, really hard, then you’re playing with physicality.

Hmm. So take a professional sports team. It’s their JOB to play with physicality. That’s all they do. Yet, they cruise through the first half, or the first period, or whatever time compartmentalization that particular sport has, and they just…play. Just phone it in. Go through the motions. Then, when,  SURPRISE, team A discovers they aren’t beating the team B, they start playing with physicality, and win the game. Seems like they should have just done that from the beginning. Just sayin’.

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31 thoughts on “Physicality?

  1. Really nice post. The game was just not a good one for the Vancouver Canucks. I think it showed in the end that the Bruins really deserved the cup more than the Canucks even though Vancouver was supposed to be the better team. If they were the better team they sure didn’t show it by getting shalacked in 4 out of the 7 games. Not being able to score any goals, no matter how good a goalie is playing, is absolutely inexcusable. Canuck fans at Rogers Arena wanted a reason to cheer in game 7 and they didn’t get one. It was a sad way to end an unbelievable season for the Vancouver Canucks. It’s going to be interesting to see how they react in the off-season. Also you think you could check out my blog cuz I’d love to hear what you have to say.

    • Thanks for stopping by Chris. I can see by your blog that you know way more about sports and this hockey series than I do. I did not follow this Stanley Cup series as closely as I would have had the Red Wings been in it. BTW, another hockey team that has never been the same since the heartbreaking accident that followed their earlier Stanley Cup win. Does the cup bring a curse? I don’t know, but it often seems in general that sports teams do not do as well the year following their title wins. I’m not as into sports as you, but I have lots of men at my house who keep me apprised of all of this.

      On another note, I think the world was shocked, shocked, to see the violent riots that occured in Vancouver post game. We Americans tend to think of Canadians as a more polite and better behaved version of ourselves.

  2. Great photo of The Cup. My husband ran upstairs with physicality to see it when I told him you’d written this post. He pointed to the place where the Islanders’ four wins would be. As if I don’t know after 20 years of living with the man. 😉

  3. I’m surprised that “physicality” is actually a word, I figured it was one of those things that sportscasters come up with because they don’t actually want to (or perhaps are able to) string together a coherent clause.

    I have to go though, I have an experiment to do and I really want to bring my thinkability to bear on it.

    • Perhaps your thinkability will tell you it really is NOT a word. I guess we can take just about any word and add -cality or -bility to it and make a word. When I started this post I started with the preminse the physicality was not a word and I was going to go on to wax poetic about how sports commentators make up words. Then, just to be safe I checked the dictionary, and poof, there it was. Had to adjust my premise, but in my book, it’s still a made-up word. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoroughly thinkable comment!

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  5. According to m-w.com first use of physicality was in 1660. This is about the same time as the scientific revolution (the Enlightenment) where Newton discovered all that physics stuff. Physics/physicality.

  6. Although physicality is a real word, I agree that it sounds awkward and made up. Without any proof, I’m blaming Kirk Herbstreit for invigorating its use in the modern vernacular. In general, it seems to be ex-jock, sports commentators that use it. Personally, I think “big” words with vague meanings are generally reserved for those who aren’t articulate enough to speak in a concise way.

    • I think you are right Brad. I was actually surprised to see “physicality” in the dictionary. I’m not sure if it became a word through colloquial use, or if it just always was but no one was using it. I think part of why sports commentators use such jargon is that they have to blather on for some time about things of which there really is not that much to say. Thanks for stopping by.

    • How nice of you to stop by and share such kind words. Perhaps I’ll make a up a new word just for you – oh wait, I think there already is one.

      In the meantime, it might help to look up the definition of satire, or if you prefer, satiracality.

  7. Couldn’t agree more. Just heard a commentator on pregame show use word 4 times in 2 minutes. Googled word since it was driving me crazy and came across your posts.

  8. Great post! I wanted to know if anyone else felt the same as I do. Even though the word is in the dictionary, I cringe every time it is used by a sports commentator, and it is used quite often in every college football game i watch. I guess it makes them sound smarter.

  9. Dictionaries that choose to add words willy-nilly because Political Correctness forces them to embrace made-up/fake words like this that came from ebonics/jive are not to be believed. These mental giants (sarcasm) are nothing more than spineless jackanapes simps that want to destroy everything that the USA has nurtured and identified with for over 200 years because such Red Diaper Doper Babies want the USA to turn into a communist state with them as the ruling class and the current shrinking middle class as the serfs. If you pull back and see the big picture, you can notice the chipping away in the culture (like this and many other language examples) that has been in process for decades now. It’s a sad thing to recognize. The middle class in the USA will either decide to leave the borders (if you can call them that now), or turn and fight. I wonder how it will turn out.

    Hearing that word just SICKENS me. Why we have to suffer such fools is a source of consternation.

    I didn’t leave — that’s just SOME of what’s on my mind with this. 😉

  10. A lot of terms like “physicality”, “functionality”, “tornadic activity”, etc., make their way into the common vernacular due to widespread acceptance of linguistic laziness. It simply takes too much effort to say, “physical aggressiveness”, “functional capability”, “possible tornados”, etc.,. Then there is the aurally grating “addicting” (it’s “addictive”), and similar gems. Unfortunately, it seems that repetition eventually ensures official acceptance.

    This meshes with the sorry state of our education system which equates “everyday” with “every day” and raises no flags when a college graduate makes the statement, “The race was ran last night.”

    So, like, it doesn’t matter, like, what words, um, you use to, like, talk, as long as, like, everybody can, um, like, understand. I know, right?

    You have a good name, by the way.

    • Thanks, Dempsey Darrow. You raise some interesting points about linguistic laziness with which I must agree. Interesting to note is that comments on this post have ranged from indigence that one would even suggest that physicality is not a word, to commentary on poor education in America. It seems that in general, society is more accepting of grammatical errors, and in many cases, does not even recognize them as errors. This may, in part, be due to schools focusing more on the “big picture” of math and science, although I contend that one must be able to speak and write well, no matter what their field.

      One of my language pet peeves is the misuse of “amount” in place of “number,” ie – “there was a large amount of people at the game.” This is especially vexing when used by those who should know better, such as national news and sports casters. Another one is mispronouncing “library” as “liberry” – the local newscaster on my NPR station does this.

  11. The word “physicality” may be in the dictionary, but it still sounds like a made up word to me. Actually, it sounds like “fingers on a chalkboard” every time I hear it. Basketball coach: “We need to embrace the physicality of the game.” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that. Makes me want to scream.

    • I guess we could try to appreciate the embraceability of that statement, but then we’d be as bad as they are 🙂 Anyway, I’m pondering the thinkability of your comment. 🙂

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