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bragging rights

February 9, 2015

On Saturday I was lucky enough to go to White Hart Lane to see Tottenham Hotspur defeat Arsenal 2-1. As I left the ground, with my heart singing and my lips grinning, I knew to a certainty what all the sports reports in all the newspapers would have to say about this result; and sure enough, the very next day I read in the Independent on Sunday that Spurs fans had earned bragging rights over Arsenal fans.

This ugly expression is frequently trotted out after local derbies – and I think I’m right in saying that in the case of this particular North London derby it is always trotted out. I’m not sure what it is about the phrase that annoys me so much. It just doesn’t sound right, somehow. It sounds as if it is supposed to be funny, and isn’t. No one would ever say it; it’s pure journalese. It also seems to have a whiff of illogicality about it. Do you need rights to brag? Obviously you need something to brag about. You can’t brag about your team losing. But then the word “brag” already carries the implication of “rights” – or grounds, more accurately.

But there’s not much point trying to analyse it: some expressions sound and feel right, and some don’t, and to me this one doesn’t. I just don’t like it: although I do, of course, like the fact that Spurs beat Arsenal 2-1 after being a goal down at half-time, and that the win was achieved by superior skill, technique and athleticism, and two great goals from Harry Kane.

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One Comment
  1. I wonder how recently this phrase started being used in journalism in general and in the case of Spurs v Arsenal in particular. To me it has a whiff of “underdog” about it so would not have felt appropriate saying Spurs had “bragging rights” in the 1960s when they were clearly superior. Whereas now, let’s be honest, we expect Arsenal to win this local derby. I think the press talks more about Spurs than Arsenal having bragging rights these days. Could all change soon though!

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