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'Winningest' V 'brace': Sporting Terms Lost In Translation


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
I don't see a sports section so I am posting the article here for football or is it soccer fans to enjoy.

'Winningest' v 'brace': Sporting terms lost in translation


A feature on jargon in "soccer" - the American terms that leave Brits reeling and the British terms that flabbergast Americans - generated a huge response from readers. Here is a selection of favourite and least favourite terms used by commentators on the other side of the Atlantic.

The one word that makes me cringe every time is "winningest" i.e. "The Red Devils are the most winningest team in England". It just sounds horrible, and is "most successful" that much more problematic to say? Simon Craggs, Toronto, Canada

For a while at the beginning of Major League Soccer they referred to corners as "apex restarts", which is probably the worst example of an Americanism (though they have now dropped that) but my personal most disliked is "upper 90" instead of top corner. Matt Hamilton, Pine Grove, USA

One real source of confusion is that, when Player A manhandles Player B, the referee blows for foul "on" - not "by" - the evil A. When first listening to radio commentaries, it took me some time to work out why free-kicks always seemed to go to the guilty party's side! Ian White, Texas City, Texas

I remember a US commentator describing a whipping cross into the box that was clattered into the back of the net as: "He transfeeeeerrrs aaand compleeeeetes!!!!" Nick Fawbert, Singapore

In the US, all matches in every sport list the visiting team first and the home team second - Visitors v Home Team. In Europe, it's the opposite - Home Team v Visitors. The aggravating result is that when American TV broadcasts association football (or soccer) games, sometimes they follow the European rule, and sometimes the US rule, with the result that the identity of the home team is a mystery. MT Nolan

"The new British recruit to American football, Lawrence Okoye, raised eyebrows when he referred to the 'pitch' instead of the correct American term, 'field'.

"Confusion also reigns in football - the one with a round ball - in the US, where British fans are flummoxed and occasionally irritated by American phrases.

"Fox Sport's new football commentator, Gus Johnson, has been ridiculed for using phrases like 'in the six' when describing action taking place in the six-yard box."

My very favourite Britishism is: "The pitch is greasy." It always conjures an image of an industrial accident, like an oil spill, that occurred overnight, and the grounds crew didn't quite get it completely clean up before the match. Michael Norona, Tampa, Florida, USA

My sport is rugby and I have played with and against Americans. I love the term "eight man" for "number eight" but was a bit put out when referred to as a "two man". I caused all sorts of embarrassed giggles when talking to a grandmother, mother and daughter after a game in Maryland, all I said was: "Back home both my son and I are Hookers at the same club." Chris Wright, Pasir Ris Singapore

"En fuego" = "on fire". The US is becoming increasingly bilingual with Spanish and "en fuego" is commonly used by our "announcers" (ahem, commentators) to describe a player who is, well, en fuego. Glen Belovsky, San Francisco, USA

It did take a while to understand that a "test match" didn't have anything to do with tests. Bowling Green doesn't have much to do with bowls, either, for that matter. David Erbach, Bowling Green, KY

As a Londoner now living in rural western New York, I still haven't recovered from seeing our local paper refer to the World Cup as the "Men's World Soccer Championships". Alenka Lawrence, Allegany, NY, USA

What bugs me the most is hearing English commentators using the American baseball term "step up to the plate" to describe an action in English football. Why not a cricket term such as "step up to the crease"? VG, Kissimmee, USA

You missed out on "riding pine" as in someone who is on the substitutes' bench. Ricky Riot, Scotland

One sport divided by a common language

My two favourite Britishisms are "pace" - speed in US - and "quality" - not sure what the US equivalent would be. Perhaps skill? Jose E Gutierrez, Brooklyn, USA

An {censored}nal fan, I was recently asked by my friend New York John if {censored}nal had any real offensive players. I thought long and hard and could only come up with Nicholas Bendtner, for all the wrong reasons. Rory, Madrid, Spain

Having lived in Canada, England, and the US, I can say that the strangest sports terminology I have ever heard is the BBC's "Canadian American football". I can see calling the US variety American football, but the Canadian variety developed concurrently, and is not some strange genetic mutation. Why not call it "Canadian football"? Eric Swanson, Pittsburgh, USA

A few things that grate: Goaltender (goalkeeper), DEfence (DeFENCE), the "D" (instead of "the defence"), corner markers (instead of corner flags). Howard, Edmonton, Canada

According to MLSsoccer.com, Italian terms have also become widespread among US football fans.

Phrases such as tacco (back pass), "catenaccio" (counter-attacking) and "autogol" (own goal) have apparently been observed among supporters.

Whether the trend will catch on with "ultras" (diehard fans) in the long term remains to be seen.

We lived in London for several months in 2007 and I can tell you that the most challenging aspect of watching football for Americans is trying to decipher the comments of the Scottish commentator during halftime. Example: "Man U woan be bean. They woan be bean!" Joe Guiltinan, South Haven MI USA

When I started listening to the EPL [English Premier League] on the radio I started to hear the term "brace" and ended up having to search on the internet to learn that it meant that a player had scored twice in the same game. Mark Landes, Exton, PA

There was a hilarious moment on the US broadcast of the FA Cup Final where American broadcaster Gus Johnson described an unfit player as having dead legs. Ian Wright, his English broadcasting partner said "What are dead legs?" I believe Johnson meant a dead leg, which we would call a "charlie horse" in America (deep muscle bruise). Jon Bloom, Durham, NC

My big peeve is when a team is referred to as "it" instead of "they". Crystal Palace has won (not have won) promotion to the Premier League but I am not sure it (not they) will survive. They are a team, made up of more than one player so should be referred to as they or them (plural), not it (singular). Derek Blackham, West Allis, Wisconsin, USA

I once heard an American commentator describe a curled shot as a "banana rocket". James Crossland, Manchester, UK

I watch a lot of soccer. I get corrected and told it is football, not soccer. That is when I explain that: I do not drive a lorry, I don't get things from the boot or check under the bonnet for what's odd, never ride a lift to my flat, use the loo before turning on the telly and having some crisps. I do say pitch, kit and match quite often. But I make up for it by pronouncing aluminum (aluminium) the correct way. Spencer Bone, Portland, OR, United States
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