Headline English: A Captain Should Be Pitch Perfect at a Multitude of Skills

icon_5360Here’s a recent headline from the Financial Times:

A Captain Should be Pitch Perfect at a Multitude of Skills

This headline is for an article that compares the game of cricket, popular in Great Britain and other countries, to the world of baseball. But there are lots of interesting things we can learn from it.

Let’s start with captain. A captain is a leader in the military (such as the army and navy), but we also use that term for someone who is the leader of a sports team. Sports vocabulary is also very popular in the American business world. So in business, a captain would be a leader, usually of a company.

There’s an old expression, “the captains of industry,” meaning the business leaders of a country.

The next interesting term here is “pitch perfect.” The word pitch has two different meanings here, and the headline is using both to make a little joke, what we would call word play or play on words. To pitch (as a verb) means to throw a ball, like a player in the game of cricket or baseball might do. But pitch (as a noun) refers to the musical note that a person can sing.

In music, to be “pitch perfect” means to always be able to sing the “right” or correct note, or to recognize it when you hear it. (And, to make things even more confusing, “pitch” as a noun is also used in British English to refer to what Americans would call the “field,” the area where a sport is played.)

However, in normal conversation, pitch perfect means to do or say exactly the right thing, to be perfectly accurate and effective in what you say or do, or to say something with just the right tone or mood.

Juliana: Did you hear John’s explanation of why we lost 200 million dollars last quarter?

George: Yes. I thought his explanation was pitch perfect. The investors seemed to be less nervous after his talk.

I should also add that “pitch” as a verb can also be used to mean to attempt to convince someone to accept your proposal, to buy what you are selling, whether it is a physical object, a service, or even an idea. Pitch can also be a noun meaning the act or process of selling or convincing.

Gustavo: I have a great new idea for a movie.

Justin: How are you going to pitch it to the movie studios?

Gustavo: I’ll just give them the story idea. You see, there’s a planet full of sharks who are as big as dinosaurs and then they start to eat people and . . .

Justin: Okay, I’ve heard enough (I don’t want to hear any more)!

The final word of interest here is “multitude.” Business vocabulary in English is filled with polysyllabic words (words that have more than one syllable; poly means “many”) that are used even though you could say the same thing with a shorter, easier word. I guess people think that if you use long words, you are smarter than if you use short ones.

Multitude is a good example of a polysyllabic word that people use to impress their colleagues. It just means a large group or number, or simply, “many.” Normally, we use the preposition “of” after multitude, as in a “multitude of skills.”

Leo: This project has a multitude of problems, doncha (informal for “don’t you”) think?

Kevin: No more than all of our other projects!

So, to sum it all up (to review or summarize what we just said): this headline says that if you are a leader of a team or company, you need to be able to do lots of things really well. But you probably knew that already, right?


Image Credit: The Noun Project

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15 Responses to Headline English: A Captain Should Be Pitch Perfect at a Multitude of Skills

  1. Dan says:

    Hello everyone

    It frequently happens that I find myself puzzled by headlines. That’s why I appreciate this kind of posts.

    Sometimes when I am in a dumb state of mind I find myself to be staring at the headline, and just figuring out later that the meaning was really simple.

    That’s normal. It can also happen I am having hard time figuring out the meaning of a headline in my own language.

    Thank you Jeff

  2. Parviz says:

    Hi Jeff,
    It’s amazing how elaborated this article.
    I am speechless.
    You are Pitch perfect with English skills (very many of them, of course).
    To tell the truth, I have heard the term “Pitch Perfect”, I didn’t know the meaning, but I didn’t bother to
    look it up in a dictionary either.
    Until, you perfectly broke it down to me.
    So thank you a lot,

  3. Peter says:

    Well , I don’t know what to say. thanks Jeff
    Honest , I was looking forward to the next post.
    You know,
    The head like was pretty much self-explanatory.
    However, thanks for breaking it down.


  4. gorrdoo says:

    You are real y good, I myself have learnt a lot with the way you explain, I am going to continue reading all tour work forma ever

  5. sara says:

    thanks Dear Jeff.honestly telling,you are a perfect teacher.

  6. Thiago Messias says:

    Ohhh wow 😀 Nice text
    The beauty of the English language. Gotta love it.

    Thanks again Jeff, you guys are the best.


  7. Takayuki says:

    Owing to your explanation, now I know that this headline saying is not new to me, sure(Although I didn’t read this article itself, and I will not too). But it’s easy for people to forget clear facts for everyone, isn’t it? Especially, for who need it when they really need it …
    Reminding and making us aware of what we know already(and the fact that we are forgetting it now also), it’s just their work, don’t you think so? Of course, I’m not sure and don’t care of what that knowledge works for.

    I always appreciate your humorous lecture! Thank you!

  8. Marcos says:

    Hi everyone

    When I saw that word “doncha” I searched immediately for Pussycat Dolls “Doncha” and I found “Don’t cha”, mean, Don’t you want? or Don’t you like?, if I’m not wrong, and when I searched on Google it showed me “Dontcha”?

    Nice day

    Thank you again Jeff

  9. emiliano says:

    That´s right and true, but not only being a leader in a company, it is necessary to do lot of things
    right and well, being a house keeper with a large family, as your mother Jeff, or even taking care
    of a person who is ill and before was the home´s leader of home as it was my dear Cuca, rquires
    to do lot of things right and well.
    It is necessary to be alert always, having in mind everything day after day, because every day
    or houre it is different and several things need to be prepared in advance.

    The best is your explanation dear teacher, it is necessary to read once and again your post to get
    all the different meanings of a siple word or expression.

    Thank you so much dear friend. emiliano

  10. Dan says:

    I am writing this just to say hello everyone.

  11. emiliano says:

    Hello Dan how are you?, and the cats?
    Here in Madrid is raining a lot, it is pouring.


  12. Dan says:

    HI Emiliano,

    Thank you for asking! Do you think is it right to use this space for personal reasons?
    Everyone else is going to read this. Who cares! there is so much white stuff awaiting to be filled here and I am sure ESL podcast team will be happy to see us writing
    even if it is not related to Jeff’s post.

    I am fine, thanks. My lovely cats are treated very well with food and love. They are fine as well.
    It is heavy downpours over here too. Look at the news from Italy at the northern city of Genova at what happened there.

    Have you noticed how gently and politely the Honk Kong students behave? It seems to be a characteristic trait of Honk Kong resident. They are all kind gentle and sweet like our dear Betty.


  13. Betty says:

    Hi Emiliano and Dan and everyone,

    I am writing just to say ‘hello’ as well. I am too busy at the moment and just can’t afford time to write anything meaningful.

    Sometimes I don’t know why I do what I’m doing – always something too hard for my liking.

    I once heard a friend of mine said “God has his own plan’. I can’t agree with her more!

    Emiliano I hope the heavy rain in where you are will stop at least for a while, and the rainbow will come out to cheer everyone up.

    Have a good weekend!

    Betty 🙂

  14. Peter says:

    I hear you sis!
    Have been there
    I have been busy for quite sometimes.
    I have the will but not time to drop a line here meaningful or otherwise.
    However , I got some free time just recently , mosty on my commute to work or back home. I used to carpool with some coworkers who happened to live two and three doors down my place. Sadly , two of them got laid off and the the third one was rolcated to
    Our off shore office in Beijing. There is a satellite office down there. He was assign as the head office down there. I would move too. It was the big break he was waiting for.
    I m in the bus home. Today was hectic at work. It was crazy buzy. Now , as I got home , I must jump in the shower. I m gonna clean up nice. I m invited to a party. It us some sort of special party for me. I have the inside information that the girl that I have the hots for her for quite some time is attending the party.
    I have to be at my best. As my friend , she is the break I have been seeking out for quite sometime 😉

    Pete from Toronto

  15. emiliano says:

    Dan, yes I agree with you, these Hong kong´s students are giving all the world a lesson
    with their behaviour.
    Here in Madrid behaviour use to be absolutely different, breaking public furniture,
    throwing stones, cocktels Molotov, and shooting with the Slingshot all kind of stones or
    steel balls.
    Even insulting to the police or doing other bad things till the police react after a long
    long time.

    Yes, they are gently and politely, and even they pick up all rubish from the floor cleaining
    all the streets where they camp.

    Of couse Dan, we can say each other hello, ¿how are you?.
    Gatufo is bigger now, he goes after me every place of the house I could go, and even
    if I am speaking with Isabel in the kitchen or which ever place she could stan, the cat
    start to say, miaaUUUU aloud, once and again, I think he is jealous the people, friends
    or not I could stay or talk.
    When Cuca and me are sitting on the couch talking or watching the Tv., he jumps
    and stay just between us or gets his place on my lap. He did the same if we are in the
    bed or we are talking with friends, he jumps and occupies his place on me
    ss showing everybody “this is mine” be alert.

    So I think this creature loves me more thank nearly everybody, except dear Cuca.

    Every day this cat gives me a surprise with his behaviour at home.

    Greetings to every one here.


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