A former champion or a past champion?

At the beginning of the month, when I was catching up with the Radio 5Live Wimbledon podcasts, I was intrigued by this snippet of conversation between John McEnroe and Pat Cash. McEnroe was hosting one of those 606 listener call in specials, but Cash had to share a sudden irritation of his that wasn’t in relation to any question in particular.

Pat: Something that annoys me a little bit, people calling you former Wimbledon champion, or something. If you won the championship, they don’t take it away, do they? So, former Wimbledon champion is like taking it away from you. You’re always a Wimbledon champion. People say “you’re a former Wimbledon champion.” No, I’m a Wimbledon champion!

John: It may not have been last year, but you know…

Pat: Yea, past Wimbledon champion, that’s okay. Former is not correct. So please…

John: As long as they say Wimbledon Champion…

So, clearly John isn’t bothered particularly, but it’s one of those little bugbears that has gotten under Pat’s skin. I found it really interesting because I refer to previous Formula One champions as ‘former’ all the time, but maybe I shouldn’t be doing that!

One thought on “A former champion or a past champion?

  1. It’s interesting isn’t it becuase subconsiously one must be aware of the alternate tense. Because people say, “he is the 7 times world champion” in the present tense automatically. I think they are talking about two things, one which is always – in that you are now always a World Champion, and one which is you are the current World Champion.

    This is going to lead us into a discussion of the pluperfect tense I can feel it 🙂

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