What’s in a word? The right words can topple governments, whip up furore, calm an angry mob.
They can get you a nice takeaway.
One noticeable aspect to spending all day every day knee-deep in words, is a heightened sensitivity to the arrival of new ones. Well not new words, because we’re talking about the English language here, basis in Latin, which can be traced through the old italic alphabet to the Greek and Phoenician scripts to the dawn of civilisation. No not that. More the way we put them together.
And here is where things get interesting. Catchphrases, urban speak, the evolution of the way we talk. If you’re lucky, something you might conjure up could find its way into the Oxford English Dictionary, preserved for posterity, usually at a time when everyone else has moved on to something else.
Not that you’re likely to get much evolution of the English language in the pro peloton - there might be some chatter but I would guess that there’s too much concentration on the job in hand for any deep and meaningful prose and that’s before you factor in the language barrier - all those different nationalities - that’s a conversation killer from the off, that and the speeds and concentration required.
On the other hand there comes a time in every pro cyclist’s life when they need to look to a future beyond the bike, when they’re not going to be paid to race. Then they think about writing a book.
Among those recently has been that of Geraint Thomas. This is less a biography than a book of observations, pearls of wisdom, and liberal use of “crack on.”
You can imagine Thomas saying this, with his Welsh lilt, a little emphasis on the O, so you’re thinking, as you’re reading, that it sounds like “craaack oewn”.
The Welsh as good as own this phrase. It has been around for donkey's years, as old as the Welsh Valleys themselves, but it is definitely in resurgence. If it is one that has somehow passed you by, it is a simplification of “get on with it,” or “stop moaning and get on with it,” or “shut the f**k up and get on with it,” but ultimately, get on with it. Carry on.
The amount of people who have told G to “crack on” over his 30 years is manifest. There was his team coach when he was a nipper: “Skin’s waterproof. Crack on.” Shane Sutton, the Team GB coach: “Get yourself on a nice continental team and crack on,” and there’s Thomas himself. He falls off, he gets up. “Crack on.”
There seem to be an awful lot of people throughout G’s life who have told him to crack on, especially compared to me. As far as I’m concerned this phrase has only recently migrated from The Valleys and entered familiar usage, but that could well be because I grew up on the exact opposite side of the country.
Is it a coincidence that I’m encountering “crack on” with increasing frequency? I’m beginning to wonder if G has had any influence in this. Granted, I mix in circles who are more likely than others to have read his book - but I’ve heard “crack on” uttered by individuals entirely unconnected to cycling. Could “crack on” have gone viral?
As for us, these cyclists, it is a phrase we can certainly gain some mileage from, given its adaptability to all manner of situations. Rain? Crack on. Wind? It’s in your mind if you can’t see it. Crack on. Dropped Steve again? He can find his way back. Crack on. Coffee? Oh go on then.
I can see this phrase catching on, at least more so than it is already. Universally liked. It’s only a matter of time before someone puts it on a jersey.
I’m surprised G hasn’t thought to trademark it. Beats the hell out of “shut up legs.” I still haven’t really figured out the German sense of humour but I would say Jens Voight has quite soundly milked that particular line bone dry and then sucked the marrow out of it. There’s a book, a clothing line, you can more than likely get it on a mug, people are having tattoos done. Seriously.
Maybe G’s management could take some inspiration from this. There are revenue streams there, just waiting to be tapped, for the time he finally puts the brakes on his racing.
There is a clear opportunity for a line of “crack on” Welsh cakes, for instance. I won’t mention sheep because that’s disrespectful but sheep shearers, they are definitely ripe for a “crack on” logo.
There’s two for you, G. I could expand but I feel I’m already on shaky ground. Not that G is going to need these inventive uses for what could be his catchphrase ticket to future riches because he’s at the top of his game. Upward trajectories are something he is becoming used to.
And to that I have one thing to say to G.
You guessed it.