Sometimes I take things too seriously.
This week’s Makeover Monday is a great example. It comes from a fivethirtyeight article about how the sports media refers to male professional athletes getting kicked in the groin, referencing a particular example from this year’s NBA playoffs. After Steven Adams was unceremoniously jumbled in the porker by Draymond Green, hundreds of journalisms gleefully took to the internet to write about it.
The article, written by Kyle Wagner, takes a lighthearted look at the differences between the styles used by various sports media outlets, noting the proliferation of the word “groin” and surprising avoidance of the word “penis.” Wagner suggests that this is of some concern, possibly implying that journalists avoid terms the public will react to in disgust especially in an internet-medium where traffic is king.
I have a hard time leaving it at that. Outside of having fun using phrases like “jumbled in the porker,” what I see when I look at this data set is a study in the evolution of language.
The viz in Wagner’s article is heavy in text and settles for telling the story that “Groin” is used more than other terms. It is largely a crosstab, useful as a lookup table to those curious about which synonym for schlong was used by their favorite media conglomerate. But I want more.
The data is helpfully categorized by type of news site. While it might be interesting to look at the words chosen by particular companies, I enjoyed looking for trends across the different subcategories that exist within the sports media industry. These companies exist on a spectrum:
I organized the four subcategories from left to right based on my understanding on where they fall on this spectrum. The “Others” category is hard to know about for sure but I’m going to operate under the assumption that it’s a catch-all category referring to companies that don’t fall into a particular bucket, and thus falls somewhere in the middle. Mainstream sports media tends to be born from the witty ESPN-style of catchphrases and a break from traditional, “serious journalism,” but still more holier-than-thou when compared to newer blogs and alternative sports sites. Anyway, this paragraph is just a way of pointing out that the organization has meaning but the meaning is less-than-scientific.
What was fun for me was exploring the progress in vocabulary used, which definitely grows more creative as you move from left to right into the “newer media” side of the chart, compared with famous quotes on vocabulary in literature which criticize the overuse of creative language and praise simplicity. I’m not sure what you’re supposed to learn from it. But it’s funny.