THE IDEA that Andy Murray is described as British when he wins and Scottish when he loses has been exposed as a hoary myth.
Postgraduate researcher Ben Dickson - a tennis fan - analysed nine years of reports on the player’s Wimbledon triumphs and disasters, and found the papers treated those outcomes just the same when it came to assigning him a national identity.
Dickson, from Dumfries, scrutinised over 200 Press reports on Murray’s Wimbledon matches from 2005 to 2014, for his Msc dissertation in applied linguistics.
He established that, whether Murray won or lost his match, all sections of the Press remained consistent when describing him as a Scot or a Brit.
Dickson, based at Stirling University, said his research dispelled “the commonly-held view” that Murray is British when he wins and Scottish when he loses
He found, in fact, that reporting on Murray’s national identity depended more on the type of newspaper and where it was published.
Scottish newspapers referred to Murray as Scottish twice as frequently as they referred to him as British. In the UK national press, broadsheets had an increased tendency to refer to Murray as Scottish while tabloids referred to him as British.
Mr Dickson, who is currently in Brazil, said today: “Following on from a previous small-scale study I had done for my Corpus Linguistics module - and as a tennis fan - I was determined to put this issue to bed once and for all.
“My research shows that the result of Andy Murray’s matches does not affect the way the UK based press refer to his national identity.
“What has been identified, however, is that nationalism is key to the language of sports reports in the UK.”
Sampling both broadsheet and tabloid titles, the research threw up “interesting” results on the use of language.
Analysis of key words showed that broadsheets tended to give a voice to Murray only when he was successful and that tabloids tended to use more personal language like first names and nicknames.
Nationalistic terms were used to refer to Murray’s opponents in all newspapers except one broadsheet.
Dickson’s Msc supervisor, Dr Vander Viana, lecturer in applied linguistics at Stirling University, said: “The analysis of language constantly throws up surprises. Our intuitions on how we think we use language and how we actually use it are not the same, as this fascinating research shows.
“Dickson’s study dispels a long-standing myth on the basis of a thorough linguistic analysis.”