Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Athletes Are NOT Decorated

One of my English Language pet peeves was illustrated and all but flogged to death during the 2008 Summer Olympics, the overuse of the word "decorated" to describe anyone who has apparently won anything.
Decorations should be easy to understand; of course, there is the noun for items used to liven/spruce up a room or building, or even a tree, for a festive occasion. But, at least during my more than 45 years of life and 18 as a journalist, decorations designate awards that military service people, police/law enforcement, first responders/first aid, intelligence and diplomatic service members receive for valorous and/or meritorious service. Occasionally, a civilian will commit such a brave act or high amount of service that a decoration is presented.
I have never, and still do now, believe an athlete is "highly decorated" for winning several Olympic medals, receiving several trophies or winning individual awards. Decorated, to my mind, was always saved for the above-mentioned people and a highly selective, out of the ordinary honor and designation.
I do not remember the words "decorated" and "decoratons" being used in this manner while I grew up and first started writing, but I have noticed their use in this way grow over the last couple of years. Why, I do not, know, and I believe the use of the word should be reserved for those who actually earn decorations, and not just a fancy way of saying something else.
This may not seem like a vital matter to some, and I am certainly not conservative, but I do not see why the use of a word should be bent from honoring those who serve above and beyond their nation's and community's call should be equivalent to hitting a baseball sucessfully about 3 out of 10 times or for running with a long, brown ball on a green field, sometimes real grass, sometimes turf.


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