Lou Rabito: Let's orally commit to banning 'orally commit'

BRUCE BENNETT / Getty Images
BRUCE BENNETT / Getty Images
Posted: May 23, 2010

Husband and wife chatting over Saturday morning breakfast:

"Remind me of your plans for today."

"Well, I made an oral commitment to mow the lawn. Then I orally committed to trimming the hedges after lunch. But I saw that the forecast called for afternoon rain, so I decommitted to that and made an oral commitment to tidy up the attic."

Can you imagine such a conversation?

Of course not.

No one talks that way, unless the subjects are high school athletes and recruiting.

Athlete makes an oral commitment to a college.

Athlete orally commits.

Athlete decommits.

Ugly.

Uglier.

Ugliest.

It doesn't stop there. Nowadays, when a high school athlete commits to a college, he becomes a "commit" - as in a Penn State commit or a Rutgers commit.

The rest of us promise to do something, or say we're going to do something, or even announce that we're going to do something. We don't orally commit to anything.

Likewise, we don't decommit. We change our minds. We renege on a promise.

When Douglas MacArthur was ordered to leave the Philippines in 1942, he didn't say, "I make an oral commitment to return."

When Brett Favre decided to come back to the Packers in 2008 and then sign with the Vikings the next year, neither time did he say that he had decommitted to retirement.

No one hops on a train to New York to see the musical Oral Commitments, Oral Commitments! (Note to the non-thespian: Promises, Promises! recently reopened on Broadway.)

When actress/singer Hilary Duff and NHL player Mike Comrie got engaged earlier this year, no reports said that they had orally committed to each other, or that they had made an oral commitment to get married.

And unless I missed it, no one has called Comrie a Hilary Duff commit, either.

(With a nod to The Inquirer's editing mavens, here's why we use the terms oral commitment and orally commit instead of the slightly less reprehensible verbal commitment and verbally commit. Verbal implies the use of words, written or spoken. Oral is more specific, implying only spoken words.)

We're reading and hearing these recruiting terms more often these days. Athletes are committing to colleges earlier than ever - the extreme being the 13-year-old quarterback from Delaware who said he would join Lane Kiffin's Southern Cal football squad later this decade.

Obviously, the earlier that athletes commit to colleges, the more time they have to decommit from those colleges.

With the attention placed on recruiting at an all-time high, earlier commitments and decommitments are probably here to stay. There are too many sites and organizations looking for so-called news and scoops - and getting them.

That doesn't mean the lexicon can't change, though.

No more oral commitments. Instead, let's say and write, "The senior promised Tuesday that he will play basketball next season for the University of Louisville."

No more decommitting. Rather, "The player said Thursday that he had changed his mind about attending Louisville and instead will play for Villanova."

No more a Temple commit. Instead, "a player who says he will attend Temple."

How do we accomplish this? I have an idea.

We can start a Facebook group. (Hey, it worked for Betty White.)

You can count me in.

That's a promise, not an oral commitment.


Contact staff writer Lou Rabito

at 215-854-2916 or rabitol@phillynews.com.

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