Now that "March madness" is fully upon us, and indeed approaching its annual climax, it's fitting to reflect on basketball jargon, which is distinguished by its many colorful monosyllables: hoops, hops, bigs, stuff, slam, jam, slash, dish, board, glass, dunk, pick, screen, paint, lane, point, wing, trey, rim, post, trap, "D", roll, box, press, tip, swish, bank, brick, feed, stroke, hole, "J", rock, range. But down-home slang is not basketball's only linguistic register. Curiously, roundball jargon exhibits a contrary tendency toward polysyllabic words of Greek and Latin origin. Some teams, for example, are said to be "physical." "Physical" (from Gr. physicos = nature) means, in basketballese, simply "rough" and does not imply that the other team plays either an ethereal or spiritual game. Until recently, a guard played on the "outside" and the center on the "inside"; nowadays they've become "perimeter" (Gr.) and "interior" (L.) players. A fast break has become "transition offense." A player doesn't drive to the basket; he "penetrates." Players no longer jump; they "elevate"; they don't block a shot, they "reject" it. In an odd linguistic development, a point guard no longer passes the ball; he "distributes" (Latin: distribuere, to allot) it. In its ordinary signification, to "distribute" a basketball would be to cut it into pieces like a loaf of bread and give each teammate a slice. Only a few years ago, it was still possible to "switch" from guarding one man in order to guard another; now players "rotate." "Rotate," derived from the Latin word for wheel, means "to turn on an axis, to spin." A defender who did not switch but rotated would, properly, pirouette, and pirouetting is not an effective defensive strategy. (A better classical upgrade for switch would be "revolve.") Even sillier than rotate: "rotate over" or "rotate around"-- a usage that evokes the grotesquerie of a big guy in a tutu pirouetting across the baseline -- a vision that is all the more picturesque now that traditional basketball shorts have been replaced by big ol' floppy bloomers. Just last night I heard a TV announcer declare that a seven-foot tall player had "a lot of verticality." Players don't score; they "convert," as in, "they had a transition opportunity but failed to convert." They don't push an opponent out of the way; no, no, no, -- they create space (Latin: creant spatium). Inasmuch as I am not a physicist, I wonder whether space is like matter, and can therefore neither be created nor destroyed. How silly of me; neither the laws of physics nor the usual constraints of language are binding on punditor basketballensis. OK, game's on; let's see how well they play -- sorry, how well they execute.