August 25, 2010

The 'doosra' stumps all comers

Liam Brickhill

It’s not just England’s batsmen that have trouble reading the ‘doosra’. A survey of a global network of linguists has concluded that ‘doosra’ – which means 'second' or 'other' in Urdu and refers to an offspinner’s variation that turns in the opposite direction to an orthodox delivery - is the single most untranslatable term in cricket. No less confusing to those who don't know their silly mid-off from their square leg, ‘googly’ came in second, followed by ‘mullygrubber’.

"Cricket is not just a sport but also a language in its own right,” said Jurga Zilinskiene, managing director of Today Translations's, the London-based language firm that carried out the survey. "Indeed, it is perhaps the world's most untranslatable language. Sometimes, the equivalent idea - like doosra or googly - simply does not exist in both cultures. I believe, for example, that cricket is now starting to catch on in France. Can you imagine? But don't worry. We at Today Translations are working on finding a good French translation for 'doosra'.”

Harold Pinter, the late English Nobel Prize-winning playwright, espoused the pleasures of cricket when he said: "I tend to believe that cricket is the greatest thing that God ever created on earth. Certainly greater than sex, although sex isn't too bad either. Anyway, you can either have sex before cricket or after cricket. The fundamental fact is that cricket must be there at the centre of things."

His feelings, no doubt shared and bemoaned in equal measure by cricket lovers and long-suffering partners around the world, have been backed up by studies of cricket's lexicon. "Cricket has generated a richer terminology than any other sport and - some would say - than any other human activity aside from sex,” added Zilinskiene.

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town

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