Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The importance of being top

Generally speaking foreign managers working in the Premier League speak better English than the British ones. It's only when they have to put their faith in just one word that you often find them picking the inappropriate one.

After they conceded a late goal to West Brom last night Jose Mourinho accused his team of having a "lack of personality". I think what he meant was lack of character. He was referring to a lack of what the dictionary calls "mental or moral constitution" rather than an absence of individuality.

The adjective I listen for is "important". Managers from overseas always talk about games being "important", players being "important", goals being "important". It's a furrowed brow word whose natural home is the boardroom. British managers, on the other hand, don't use important. Instead they use playground words like "big" and "massive" and, most frequently, "top".

To increase the impact of "top" they double up on it. Pundits and managers now use the expression "top, top player" as if it were a technical term and not just a way of filling a silence.


  1. I teach English to French students and they use 'important' when they mean 'big', perhaps there is the same misnomer amongst Portuguese and Spanish speaking people?

  2. Use of the word "normal" is interesting too. They seem to use it when they mean uninteresting or irrelevant.