Wales v England – tackling the war on words

Tomorrow evening, two teams – one in red, one in white – will stand side by side, steely-eyed and hard of heart but carrying on their shoulders the hopes of two nations.

We’ll sit in pubs, in our homes with arms wrapped around our children, and shout from the rooftops. We’ll feel every try, every bone-cracking scrum and every missed point. We’ll get goose bumps at the anthems and pretend it’s not really a tear in our eye. The Welsh amongst us will speak in hushed tones of Leigh Halfpenny and what might have been. England fans will wonder at the sense, or otherwise, of dropping George Ford.

For Wales v England, the stage is set.

At that first whistle what will certainly be over is the rhetoric. Ahead of every great sporting occasion comes a great amount of eyeballing of the microphone and an apparent indifference to what the other camp is saying and doing. Language is ramped up and our opponents are given the verbal equivalent of a 100 metre stare. Let’s take Warren Gatland and his determination to see the Wales squad ‘smash’ anyone in the way.

It was that choice of word – smash – that got me thinking. Does it matter that one player can’t remember the name of his opposite number or is it all just bluster and bravado? And does bluster and bravado really change the game at the end of the day?

Bluster and bravado are not something unique to sport though. In fact they are creeping all around us like fans entering a stadium on match day. For some, words are being used to over-egg the pudding – it’s a bit like sneaking an extra rugby ball on to the pitch and hoping no one will notice.

Management speak and superlatives sneak into job adverts and business forum pen portraits turn potentially great people into world experts on just about everything. Press releases that, frankly, should never have been allowed out of the office are somehow set free on a media that must shake its collective head in despair. I know, I’ve read them.

Everywhere we turn, words are piled on like players in a scrum in the hope we, (or our product), sound better than the next man or woman.

True, it’s not always easy to write about yourself. Or someone or something else. But describing yourself as a genius, guru or all round good guy is a no-no. It doesn’t make you sound great – it, frankly, makes you sound a little bit weird.

Cutting through the chaff and stripping out a para or two makes everything seem a little more human and is often the best way forward. The best sense check will always be you. Read your copy as others would read it. If it, or you, sound too good to be true then chances are it probably is. Keeping it simple often has the most impact. And it may be something that two teams in particular find out for themselves tomorrow.


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