Swimming… Faster

By David

While Rhi and John have been finishing their morning 8000 meters, I’ve just finished reading the book “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” by Lynn Truss. It’s a very good 220 pages about the boring subject of punctuation. As Truss says, “Punctuation really does matter, even if it is only occasionally a matter of life and death.” Towards the end of the book, on page 196 to be exact, Truss makes an important point and one that is relevant to all of us involved in the sports of swimming and running.

She expresses annoyance that bomb is spelt b-o-m-b, with the “b” on the end. Why is the last “b” needed at all? The word would be just as meaningful spelt bom. In fact after testing herself over timed intervals of one minute, Truss determined she could write bom 25% more times than bomb. Consider the savings in time and resources dropping the “b” would have on reporting events in today’s world. Whole forests could be saved.

The American nation has done its bit to improve the wasted effort they inherited from the other side of the Atlantic. Harbour, with a Microsoft squiggly line under it, has become harbor, labour has become labor, flavour has become flavor and so on. For some reason though this most logical of people, the Americans, have left your as your. It should of course have become yor.

If you are still interested in all this, you may be asking by now, “What has this got to do with swimming and running?” Well consider this. If we dropped the second “m” in swimming and the second “n” in running and the words became swiming and runing all of us involved in these sports could make a similar saving at no cost to the sound or meaning of the words.

I’ve tested this today and have determined that swiming can be written 23 times in one minute compared to 17 times for swimming, a proven saving of 35%. My wife, Alison – she’s the New Zealand 1000 meter track record holder, so has a vested interest in all this – studied linguistics at University and tells me the “m” and “n” cannot be dropped because swimming would then be pronounced sw’eye’ming and running would become r’eye’ning. Well that might be the case in Victoria University’s linguistic department but if that’s true why isn’t swim pronounced sw’eye’m and run, r’eye’n, because those words don’t have a double “m” or “n”.

There is a clear need here for a linguistic revolution; we have nothing to lose, except an “m” and “n”. I do not expect Craig Lord to become part of our movement. I’m sure he would consider it grounds for treason. Swimming World Magazine and Timed Finals must surely see the light. And USA Swimming, if they have any concern for conservation, any green feelings at all, must change their name now to USA Swiming.

The spelling of swimming is not the only verbal problem to bedevil those involved in the sport. In New Zealand and Australia calling one of the team a “bloody dag” is certainly a term of high praise and endearment. For those poor souls who do not understand Australasian, the word “dag” means something rather gross. That fact should clarify immediately why being a “bloody dag” is a much sort after title. I have learned, however, that in America, one needs to exercise considerable caution. It seems very few of the country’s 301 million people appreciate the value of being dag. Having said that, quite a number of our team qualify as bloody dags and seem to hold their status in appropriate high regard. Get Rhi and Haley McGregory together on the last night of the Nationals and you certainly have the ultimate in two bloody dags.

“Bloody idiot” is a similar Australasian term. There is no offense here. The term usually describes the team’s story teller, the practical joker of the group. Not long after I arrived I called one of our swimmers a bloody idiot. He told his parents and they were deeply offended. Two weeks of tension and two apologies later it was sorted out: another lesson learned. This directly relates to my previous post about foreign coaches fitting in to their new environments. A New Zealand swimmer, upon being called a bloody idiot, would probably smile quietly and forget about it. International linguistics and regional differences are fascinating!

“Fartlek” is a Swedish term meaning speed play. It is widely used in track and field to describe a type of training in which a runner’s speed is varied throughout the run. It is not however a term that is widely used in USA swimming. You can imagine what the bloody dags in our team made of a word like that when I first wrote it on our training white board.

And so you can see there is a far wider responsibility to being involved in this sport. It is not just a matter of swimming laps and recording times. The language of the sport needs your respect. Join the revolution.