Come On! It’s Only Words | JIM FURLONG

A break from Christmas shopping now to tell you of a much-used little expression that has made its way deeply into our culture. I was watching Jamie Oliver doing a Christmas cooking thing last night on the television and I see he is the latest to pick up on the expression Come On. He uses it to draw attention to something marvellous. Yorkshire puddings or creamed potatoes would be examples. Oh, come on!

Now, according to a dictionary of idiomatic expressions, the phrase ‘come on’ has many meanings, including one as a verb and it may have its origins as far back as the 13th century. The meanings of Come On includes things such as – request to hurry; to ask to go faster; to bring something forward; and, my personal favourite, the meaning with a sexual connotation as in something being “a come on.” That one is no longer much in vogue, but you can see that simple two word expression has acquired a widespread use that blankets many aspects of our everyday lives.

In sports, as we know, it has become an expression that represents a kind of disbelief in what has just happened. Oh Come On ! You will hear it a lot in the Plays of the Week. That is pleasing to me as it at least gives blessed rest to another broadcasting expression; Are you kidding me? That phrase was picked up and used by every announcer from here to Los Angeles during the past couple of years. Some goalie makes a nice save and suddenly it has become “Are you kidding me” time.

It may have surprised you to know that “Come on” is not a new expression. It has been in use for some time and is rooted deeply in things like English football. “Come on Chelsea Come on”. That sports usage made the trip across the Atlantic a long time ago because I remember from my old school sports the exhortation “Come on St. Bon’s!” that rang across the playing fields of St, John’s. Here’s an odd memory I have of the late St. John’s city councillor Ray O’Neil from his days heading up the Newfoundland Safety Council. His office was in the King George V Building on Water Street and overlooked the harbour. Whenever I walked in to do an interview Ray O’Neil’s first words were always; Come on St. Bon’s! He, like me, was a boy of the Blue and Gold.

These are not words to live by but words you will recognize the next time in broadcasts of hockey, soccer, baseball or football games yet another announcer will scream Oh Come On as if he had invented the phrase. He didn’t.

You can contact Jim Furlong at [email protected]