New Horizons in “Sport”

Nancy Friedman points out a new hashtag campaign by Nike, seemingly launched yesterday on Twitter:

Screen Shot 2019-07-11 at 9.27.15 AM


That’s the British “sport” rather than American “sports.” The usage has been noted on this blog from time to time. With Nike buying in, I expect it to surge.

14 thoughts on “New Horizons in “Sport”

  1. I’ve lived in the US most of my life. I think “sports” would sound simply wrong in those contexts.

    1. As a lifetime (65 years) American, and sports fan for almost of all of them, I can report that I was never aware of hearing “sport” (other than referring to a particular “sport,” such as basketball) until the past few years. It’s always been “sports.” Of course, that doesn’t prove anything–and it’s hard to search in the usual databases because of the basketball-is-a-sport problem. Can any other Americans comment on Cameron’s comment?

      1. I’ve lived in the U.S. my entire life (51 years), and I agree with Ben. We only use the singular “sport” to refer to an individual sport, and then it’s accompanied by an article — “a sport” or “the sport” — never just “sport.” To refer to sports collectively or in general, we say “sports.” In those examples from that Nike tweet, Americans would normally say “Sports have the power…” and “Sports change everything.”

  2. In my Australian private school, which was modelled on an English Public School, ”sport” was widely referred to as ”games”. So the British do use a plural to describe sprting activities.

    1. Indeed. I didn’t go to a public school but a state one, albeit a grammar school, so with pretensions. (Back in the sixties, at least in my part of the north of England pupils were streamed at the age of 11, the more academically inclined going to a grammar school, and the rest to a secondary modern.)

      Games was the term we used for the period in which we played things like football and cricket (for the boys) and netball and hockey (for the girls). (It’s a difference between American and British English that in the UK, hockey usually refers to a game played on grass and usually associated with school girls. There is a whole genre of fiction associated with pupils at girls’ boarding schools. called “jolly hockey sticks”.)

  3. I was imagining the forms with “sports” as being “Sports has the power”, and so on. In singular.

    I agree that “Sports have the power” doesn’t strike me as immediately grammatically “wrong” the way the singular forms do, but to my mind “Sports have the power” implies that some sports do, and some sports don’t, prompting the reply “which sports?”.

    Sport in the abstract should simply be “sport”.

    1. “Should” is a strong word, Cameron. I’ve been thinking about my response to Paul’s question (would Americans say “sports has” or “sports have”?). I answered “have” and I still think that’s generally true, but I also think there are some circumstances where an American would say “sports has.” Google Books Ngram Viewer bears me out. It would take a better grammarian than me (or I) to figure out the circumstances that favor the each of the forms.

      1. It’s hard to imagine Nike in a previous generation using such an obviously foreign formulation, whether “correct” or otherwise. I’m pretty sure an American living in 1995, hearing the phrase “sports have the ability to change the world” would automatically universalize the concept of “sports” to include “all sports.”
        However, when I first saw your screen shot today, my first reaction was, not unlike Cameron, “well, that’s the only way to say it.” Further evidence of the creeping encroachment of an alien tongue here in the land that invented real English! 😉

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