Zendaya’s big Emmy win sparks bizarre debate about what the word 'upset' means

Louis Staples
Tuesday 22 September 2020 09:45
Showbiz

Language is a funny thing. And in today’s hyper-stressful climate of relentless awfulness and crushing disappointment, small misunderstandings can seem like a huge deal.

One of the few pieces of good news to happen lately is Zendaya winning an Emmy for Lead Actress in a Drama Series, for her role in HBO’s Euphoria.

On Twitter, people were very happy that a young woman of colour beat out favourites Olivia Colman and Jennifer Aniston to win the award.

But they weren’t so happy about a headline from the New York Post which described the win as an “upset”.

Lots of people thought that the NY Post was suggesting that people were “upset” by the news.

Wait, what?

This seems like it was all a big misunderstanding.

An “upset” (an expression often used in sport and politics) merely refers to the expected course, or favourite’s chances, being “upset”. To cause “an upset” is to produce an unexpected result, rather than any indicator about how people feel about the result.

For instance, when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unexpectedly won her primary race against Joseph Crowley in 2018, it was a major upset. (Or AOC caused “an upset” with her win.)

If AOC were to hypothetically upset people with something she said or did, she would be causing “upset” but not “an upset”.

Got it?

On Twitter, people pointed out that this probably all part of the same confusion.

But some people still thought the term was in poor taste, particularly to describe a young woman of colour competing against older white contemporaries.

Was it really an upset?

Zendaya hasn't commented on all the fuss, but we doubt she will because she'll be most likely celebrating her big win.

But she can take comfort in knowing that her stans will always have her back.

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