"drop" in sports: lose (1884), defeat (1920)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Apr 14 19:36:39 UTC 2005

At 11:14 AM -0700 4/14/05, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
>On Apr 14, 2005, at 10:59 AM, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>>I noticed these dueling headlines from AP Sports the other day:
>>         "Celtics Drop 76ers, Eye Atlantic Title"
>>         "Spurs Drop Blazers, Clinch Southwest Title"
>>"Drop" is often used by sports headline writers with one of two
>>'to lose (a game)' or 'to defeat (a team)', as above.  The 'lose'
>>sense is
>>in the OED with a first cite of 1961, but the 'defeat' sense is not yet
>>included (thoug it seems related to OED def. 18, 'to fell with a
>the 'defeat' sense is just a causative of the 'lose' sense: TEAM1 drops
>TEAM2 = TEAM1 causes TEAM2 to drop GAME.  a very natural development.
>since ben gives 'lose' cites back to the 1880s, i'd expect the 'defeat'
>sense to have developed not very long thereafter, as one of the huge
>assortment of verbs meaning 'defeat' (CRUSH, BLANK, BLAST, DOWN,...).
>there's always a market for verbs of this sort, especially if they're
>vivid, and especially (for the sake of headline writers) if they're
The other weird thing about this list is that besides the fact there
are so MANY verbs used in exactly this way, all of them (in this
transitive use) have the winner as subject and the loser as object.
There is no transitive verb GLARF such that "The Syntacticians
GLARFED the Phonologists in yesterday's game" would entail that the
Phonologists prevailed over the Syntacticians.   Indeed, we don't
even get "lose to" as a quasi-transitive prepositional verb allowing
pseudo-passive.  "Chris was {spoken to/*lost to} by Kim"  This
tendency to identify winners with (transitive) subjects and losers
with objects is so strong that the two verbs "to best" and "to worst"
are synonyms:  The Red Sox bested the Yankees, AND they worsted the
Yankees too.


More information about the Ads-l mailing list