It's about time we had an Olympics-related post.
Our website editor asks why the 'asymmetric bars' women's gymnastics event is now being called the 'uneven bars', and when the change happened. The International Olympic Committee website refers to 'uneven bars' not 'asymmetric bars'. Wikipedia mentions both terms but prefers 'uneven bars'.
The Concise OED gives 'uneven bars' as the "North American term for asymmetric bars". So it's interesting to see guardian.co.uk using 'uneven bars' (albeit not exclusively). Perhaps its writers – or most of them – are simply following the International Olympic Committee preference?
Our website editor also feels that 'asymmetric' is a more accurate description of the apparatus than 'uneven', as the bars are both perfectly horizontal and regular.
So here's my argument for the bars being 'uneven'. The OED defines 'uneven' as "not level or smooth", and while the bars are certainly smooth, they are arguably not level. Not in the sense of being "at the same height as someone or something else", anyway. So each bar is in itself even, but together they are uneven.
Perhaps we should just call them the 'bars at different heights' and have done with it. Any other suggestions?
The ambiguous Oxford comma
6 days ago