English vs American, a terminological match in soccer

October 29, 2013 3:09 pm

 shutterstock_129030995In Britain it’s a national obsession and in the USA it is gaining more and more popularity. Its matches are even being played off the field, or in the terminological one, to be precise. The match begins with the problem of the name: is it soccer or football? Do they use boots or cleats? And, where do they play, on courts or on fields? Below, a list of the most common terminological disputes, stating in advance that in there are no winners in this field (or court?), just an everlasting draw. (Or a tie?) Because football has matches, terminology has matching games.

Soccer vs Football

“Soccer” originated as an Oxford “-er” slang abbreviation of “Association Football” (soc+er). While “football” nowadays may mean any of several team sports, it’s etymology didn’t origin from the action of a foot kicking a ball, but instead refers to those sports that in medieval Europe were played on foot, as opposed to those that were played riding a horse, enjoyed by aristocrats. Nowadays the word “football” may mean any one of several team sports in which it is not forbidden to touch the ball with the hands, or even lovingly hug it.

Pitch vs Field

In the U.S. a field is where a game takes place and a pitch is where a baseball player throws the ball (a pitcher). In Britain a pitch is where the game is played and a field is where sheep chill out and have their social affairs.

Boots vs Cleats

Cleats are the protrusions on the sole of a shoe which provide grip. In Britain cleats are called studs, but for Americans studs are usually animals retained for breeding, or even men who are very popular with the ladies. To Americans “boots” are ladies’ shoes; not what they would normally associate with studs.

Head vs Head-shot

To head the ball is to play it with the forehead, whether the intention is a pass, a shot or a goal. British people describe all these actions with the general term “header”, but the American use “head-shot” to describe a header that is intended as a scoring effort. So no snipers are involved, unless when they throw the ball precisely at a painful anatomical area.

Knuckle Ball vs English

A knuckle ball is the wavering and unpredictable flight of a shot which resembles the flight of a specific type of pitch thrown in American baseball. A kick of the ball which imparts spin causing the ball to curve or “bend” in flight is usually called a “banana” and sometimes “English”. So give a ball to someone English and let him kick it to add English to it. Banana!

Draw vs Tie

Terminologically, English and American use it with the same frequency but Americans don’t really appreciate games which end with no winners (and losers). However, for the UK, and all those countries with a long tradition in soccer, a draw is still an interesting result.

Nil vs Zero vs Duck vs Love

But what if a match ends with no goals? Maybe some people can bear the smothering idea of a tie, but what about a game with no scores? And what to call it? The most common way is to call it “zero”. But “nil” is also used often; the word comes from Latin, a contraction of nihil, nihilum (nothing); something that recalls extreme scepticism, maybe regarding a mental state of confusion and disappointment after a really boring match. Although used in tennis, the term “love” is derived from English speakers mishearing the French “l’œuf” (the egg). Which was the name for a score of zero used in French because the symbol for a zero used on the scoreboard, an elliptical zero symbol, visually resembled an egg. There is further support for this theory in the use of “duck” as the name for a score of zero by a batsman in cricket, which is a contraction of “the duck’s egg”.

So just imagine a British or an American soccer (or football?) fan, skeptically watching a boring match, mishearing French people cheering for eggs on the other side of the pitch (or field?) while players, not snipers, kick bananas and add English to the ball and wear mammals to avoid to slip on the field (or pitch?).

Messy? No, it’s soccer. And terminology.

Article written by: Francesco Rossi

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