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The (Odd) Language of Sports

7th June 2006

I have always thought that the terms used in some sports just don’t make sense. Not that these semantic oddities have kept me awake at night or anything. I just don’t get how the lingo developed. Here are some examples:

  • The 2006 FIFA World Cup is almost upon us. Calling the game “football” makes eminent sense since the game is played by individuals kicking the ball with their foot: foot + ball = football. Why, then, in North America do we call it soccer when no one gets “socked”? (Perhaps we should call female boxing “soccer”? Get is? “sock – her” … haha). (For the history of football, including how the term “soccer” was coined, see here)
  • Why do we call Canadian and American football, football? Whlie kicking the ball is part of the game, it isn’t a big part of the game. I’m not sure of a better name, but I don’t see why we don’t change our name so that we can call soccer football like the rest of the planet. (I know that Canadian and American Football developed from rugby and football/soccer, but why someone change the name so that we wouldn’t get confused? And BTW, did you know that Canadian/American football was first developed in Canada?)
  • Sticking with Canadian and American football for a moment, why do we call a touchdown a touchdown when no one touches down the ball? Why not call a try in rugby a touchdown since it described exactly what happens when you score (for those of you who do not understand rugby, a points are scored when a player physically touches down the ball in the opponent’s end zone). Perhaps something like “run through” would be more appropriate for Canadian and American football?
  • Football (= soccer) players, basketball players, and babies all dribble — is there a connection? (Perhaps only during salary negotiations)
  • In regard to hockey (Of course, I should probably clarify that I am referring to “ice” hockey for my international readers!), why is it called hockey? See here for some conjecture as to the word’s etymology. Why is a puck called a puck? Why did Roloson get hurt? Can the Oilers win with their backup goalie? Will Lord Stanley return home to Edmonton? Sorry… I lost my train of thought!

Well, I should get back to some real work. Go Oilers Go!


One Response to “The (Odd) Language of Sports”

  1. Mark Goodacre Says:

    I must admit that it has been tough getting used to saying “soccer” here in the American context. Part of me wants to be stubborn and insist on “football” here, which is — after all — the international name. But then people just assume that you are talking about American Football, so that won’t do. But the “soc” in “soccer” comes from “Association Football” which is the proper name for the sport, and it has a good pedigree.
    The context one occasionally hears “soccer” in in the UK is where rugby fans who don’t like football like to say “soccer” to distinguish it from rugby football.