Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Word We Despise

Why, why, why do sportswriters insist on using the word "winningest"?

We have hated this word since we first encountered it the newsroom of our college newspaper. The years may have softened many things about us, but not our antipathy toward this unfortunate superlative, which Merriam-Webster traces to 1972.

We know what it's supposed to mean--the coach or team with the most wins.

Whatever happened to "best" being the go-to word here? Last time we checked, the team with the most wins is the best one. Is there some other criteria we've forgotten when it comes to sports? Some mix of best uniforms + most bitchin' stadium + face-paintingest [sic] fans that goes to "winningest"? Or are sportswriters reaching into their sweaty word bags for a fancier alternative to a short, effective word?

What's funny is that "losingest" isn't used with anywhere near the frequency. When it comes to "worst," sportswriters at least don't mince (or make mincemeat of) words.

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