Here’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