A discourse community is a group of individuals who share a common interest, goal, and hobby—who use communication to achieve the certain goals that they have set upon each other. In addition to that “A discourse operates within conventions defined by communities, be they academic disciplines or social groups” (Swales, 119). For my discourse community, I chose to study bowling because there is a lot more to bowling to learn about than most people who don’t bowl know of, including myself. What most people hear about bowling is that it is an indoor game played with family or friends; all go to an establishment or entertainment company with bowling lanes, renting a pair of shoes, rolling a ball and trying to knock down all the pins in one or two tries.
Unlike other sports, such as basketball, football, or even cheerleading, bowling is one of those forgotten sports; there are probably people who did not even recognize bowling as a sport, but it definitely is a sport and a discourse community. Going based off the definition of a discourse community, as mentioned in first paragraph, bowlers have that common interest in playing and they have their own specialized language that outsiders would not be aware of. Knowing that it is not a very commonly played sport, it was a perfect opportunity to research and study this discourse. Before writing this paper, I can honestly admit that I was
not aware of most of the factors in bowling: selecting a ball, lexis among players, or ordering of pins. I knew some vocabulary, such as strike, spare, turkey, gutter, etc. because of video games; the games did not go into detail of the other aspects though. I also knew that bowlers were very competitive—by observing—just as the “more popular” sports players are, if not more competitive. I’m almost positive, after reading my paper, you will learn something if not a lot of facts you did not know about bowling before.
Following the questions I had conducted for Shirley, I observed bowlers simply by just watching to see if it was just a friendly game or if it was all about the competition. I had interviewed Shirley because she was an individual that caught my attention by her clothing, what looked like her own pair of bowling shoes, and the fact that she had all her own stuff, nothing borrowed or rented. Anyone who is not that serious about bowling, I know for a fact, do not go out and buy their own equipment.
Goals and Desires
An obvious common goal for people who bowl is to knock all pins down to get higher score—a strike. On a more individual level, goals range from trying to go pro or just improve to a personal level, or just simply having straight forward goals of the number strikes one can achieve. Shirley Jones addresses what her goals were as a bowler and states “To hit as many strikes as I possibly can”, followed by laughter, “I’m not expecting to go pro or anything, I just want people to recognize my hard work and be able to look at me and just know that I am a skilled player. I’ve been bowling for a long time. There’s always the goal of getting better and improving on some of the things that I’m not the best at. Everyone has something they want to work up to and get better at, it’s just the matter of having the right motivation.” I then asked her what her motivation was, and she said her “own self perseverance.” Although other bowlers may have different goals and desires, many still share the same goals too.
What is lexis? Lexis is a set of terms that is unique to the community (p. 388, Writing About Writing). All discourse communities have some-what of a communication of their own, whether it be kind of obvious or hidden or abbreviated. As with most popular sports, bowling has its own terminology in which individuals in the sport are expected to know and understand. There are also words for those that are not in the sport that they would and would not know. Some well-known terms that are used in bowling are strike, spare, and gutter; just about everyone know what those are or at least have heard of them. In a 5-person game, each position has its own purpose.
The first position bowler is like a lead-off; they get the game started and is, at minimum, an adequate bowler. The second bowler is typically the least experienced or the bowler with the lowest average; bowling second puts as little pressure as possible on the bowler, as s/he can rely on his/her teammates to pick bulk of the scores. The third bowler, known as the Chinaman, can consistently improve over season, like second bowler. The fourth bowler is a set-up man; they should not leave many frames—sections—open, picking up strikes or spares in almost every frame. Each frame allows the bowler up to two attempts to knock down all 10 pins. The best set-up man is someone who can perform well no matter how the third bowler is doing, setting up for the anchor to close out the victory.
And lastly, the fifth bowler, the anchor, generally is the best on the team. When the team need a strike, or a series of strikes, at the end of the night, they rely on this player. Statistically, the best anchors are not only good bowlers, but they can perform well under pressure and in competitive environments. That is an important characteristic in an anchor because he/she has the rest of the team relying on them to do well. Like each position, there are other words that essential in bowling. A baby strike is described as pins left after the first shot containing a pocket like the 1-3 pocket in a full rack.
The first step and absolute key to getting strikes is hitting the “strike pocket”. The strike pocket is between the 1 and 2 pins for left-handers and between the 1 and 3 pins for right-handers, as shown in the picture above. Hitting the pocket consistently with the right amount of speed and hook will lead to repeating strikes and much higher scores, and that is what everyone wants.
Genres are types of texts that are recognizable to the reader and writer, and that meet the needs of the rhetorical situation in which they function’ (Swales 467). In bowling, there are no written plays. The bowler just has to know how to roll the ball at a particular moment in order to hit the pins down.
In conclusion, everyone is apart of some sort of discourse community, whether you know what it is or not, or whether it is primary or secondary. I have learned terms and meanings in bowling than I never thought I would get to know. After writing and researching, I know more than the common terminology that many who do not include bowling in the lives know. Whenever I go out and bowl from now on, I will think back on writing this paper and recognize certain conditions. I will want to try to become a better bowler myself, even though I do not play as a sport. Bowling is an under-acknowledged sport, but I now can get a better understanding of it as a whole from the researching, interviewing, and observing. It is a game of strategy and skill, and without a balance of those two on a team or even in an individual, you will not be the best you can be in bowling.