Tangible Intangibles

As the Boston Celtics pulled away late in tonight Game 1 of the NBA Finals, ESPN color commentator Mark Jackson made a comment that should make proponents of the English language across the world weep into their hands. To paraphrase (but this is quite close to a quote):

“Here you see the Celtics use their intangibles to make a difference. They’re rotating defensively and boxing out, and that’s changing this game.”

Apparently, the word “intangible” is in the dictionary as a noun. Despite its frequent colloquial use as such, this surprised me. Nevertheless, I will entertain the idea that this word is a noun as well as an adjective, and give you the definition of its noun form:

  • intangible, noun: something intangible: as a: an asset that is not corporeal b: an abstract quality or attribute

I would say that effective defensive rotations and boxing out are not only quite tangible, but awfully corporeal. Furthermore, they are qualities and attributes that are by no means abstract, as indicated by Jackson’s ability to readily observe them.

I know this seems like nitpicking, but the frequent misapplication of the word “intangible” coupled with my general affinity for the English language made me feel like this post was necessary.


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