Can You Play Sports? Learn Information?

kids playing soccerDo kids play sports?
Do reporters learn new information?

The phrasing of both of these questions strikes me as odd.

To be honest, the terms “playing sports” and “learning information” are starting to get on my nerves.

Sports implies a collection of varied activities that involve physical exertion and skill. Individuals compete against other individuals, and teams compete against other teams. You can play tennis, play golf, play soccer or play hockey.

But when it comes to sports as a whole, you don’t play them; you engage in or participate in them.

Competition, recreation, physical activity and athletics are synonyms for sports. You don’t play any of these things; you engage in or participate in them.

Information implies facts or details about a subject: statistics, insights, opinions. You can learn about different cultures by studying about or by visiting them, learn to play the piano by  taking lessons, and learn the name of a perpetrator of a crime by listening to news reports.

But when it comes to information in general or as a whole, you don’t learn it; you acquire it.

Knowledge is a synonym for information. You don’t learn knowledge, you acquire it.

I have a hunch that there will be readers who consider this nit-picking. How about you?

Are you a coach, a trainer, a teacher or a reporter? If there is a reason to consider playing sports and learning information more acceptable than the options I’ve suggested, I’d sure love to hear from you!

Kathy Watson
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Kathy Watson

Kathy has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

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Kathy Watson
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