Tag Archives: football

Internet Has Fun at Brazil’s Expense

While Brazilians have been licking their wounds at their extraordinary thrashing at the hands of Germany in the World Cup, the internet has been awash with jokes at the unfortunate hosts’ expense.

There are a number of aspects of language change and communication that are demonstrated by the memes which have spread across the globe in the 24 hours since the match. The first is that the word meme is now firmly established as the term to describe creations of any sort, picture, video, joke, which are spread quickly around the world via social media and other technological means. I think this is a word that is still not properly understood by most people, but its jump from being a word for those in the know to the wider mainstream will have been helped by the enormous coverage the Brazilian memes have enjoyed since the final whistle.

Related to this is the idea that the nature of language itself is being changed by memes such as this. People want to say something about the game, they want to be part of the discussion and join in the fun. Now, rather than having to use words to formulate an idea, they create a picture or video as a way of making their point and then distribute it to spread that joke wider. And then others, who also want to join the conversation and say something about what has happened, simply pick their favourite meme and send it to their friends, in effect making a comment themselves. The tone of what they want to say is encapsulated by the meme they choose to share. So people are talking to each other by sharing jokes, rather than by using words. It is a key part of linguistic evolution and actually demonstrates a lingua franca that exists outside any spoken language which is currently active.

Finally new words will emerge as a result of this game, and the first is Mineirazo, named after the Estadio Mineirao where the game was played. This follows the word Maracanazo, coined after Brazil lost to Uruguay in the World Cup in 1950 in the Maracano Stadium. The new result is already being referred to in the media as the Mineirazo, and so this word will remain as the linguistic touchstone against which all future Brazilian performances, and possibly disasters, will be measured.

Say Goodbye to Fergie Time

As the football world bids farewell to Sir Alex Ferguson this weekend, it is worth nothing that it is not only his contribution to football that should be celebrated.

When he first shipped up at Old Trafford in 1986, nobody could have predicted that he would last until 2013. Equally, nobody would have believed you if you had said we would laud his contribution to the English Language on his departure.

But Sir Alex’s contribution to neologisms is legend. Perhaps his most famous phrase is ‘Squeaky Bum Time’, a phrase that refers to the sharp end of the football season and the nerves that emerge as the tension increases. It dates back 10 years and was given official recognition in 2005, while it is now a standard part of the lexicon for all fans when discussing any matter to do with the season’s conclusion.

The other time connection to the outgoing boss is Fergie Time, a rather pointed term not coined by the great man. This refers to the perception that Manchester United get more time added on at the end of games when they are losing than other teams, and that they often make use of this temporal largesse. Analysis has suggested that there is no basis in fact for this asssertion, but all football fans enjoy a good moan about bias being shown to rival teams, so the phrase will remain, even though Fergie himself has gone.

But you would never berate Sir Alex over these issues. After all, he is legendary in the football world for dishing out the hairdryer treatment, a particularly loud mode of berating players for not performing at their best.

So as Sir Alex disappears into the sunset, remember that it is not only the football world he has changed. He has also had a demonstrable effect on the language that we speak.

Messi Scores A Dictionary Entry

Let me get one thing straight. I love football. And, quite obviously, I also love words. So you’d think then when the two come together, it would create perfect harmony for me. But instead, I think I am witnessing a bit of a language own goal.

It is becoming trendy to celebrate the world’s greatest footballers by creating a word around their unique ability, and then sticking it in a relevant dictionary. Take the world’s greatest player, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. The Spanish Santillana dictionary has now added to its pages the adjective ’Inmessionante’, defined as ‘ The perfect way to play football, an unlimited ability to self-improve.’

Last year, Swedish lexicographers celebrated their own footballing hero, Zlatan Ibrahomivic, with the verb Zlatanera, ‘to dominate on and off the field’.

So are we now stuck with this? Will every sporting nation start to celebrate their finest footballer with a word saying, basically, that they’re great? Will the stars’ names simply become lexically interchangeable according to which dictionary you are looking at?

You have to hope not. Or if this is simply to disappear as the publicity gimmick it seems to be, then maybe we should suggest some slightly more entertaining definitions that should be included:

“To play brilliantly before assaulting a member of the opposition team in a vital match” – To Zidane;

“To leer at the camera after scoring a vital goal in a way that suggests you have taken in more than a half-time orange” – To Maradona;

“To play quite well in a tournament before losing on penalties” – To England.

The fact is, this could run and run. Let’s hope it doesn’t.

A New Project for a New Season

As sports fans in the UK deal with symptoms of Olympics withdrawal, at least the return of the football season can act as some kind of quick fix to help ease the pain.

But supporters – beware. Watch very carefully how your manager talks about the upcoming season. Is it a season of consolidation? Is it a tilt at the play-offs? Or is it a example of the word that has crept into football management in the last few seasons, a word which should strike fear into you all? Is it a project?

Project has become shorthand in the world of manager-speak for a big job, a rebuilding job, a long-term vision. “I am excited by the project”, the manager will say at his opening press conference, and everybody nods wisely, excited by this man’s wisdom and long-term planning.

Of course, project is a euphemism. It’s a way of saying ‘don’t expect us to win anything for three years’, or ‘don’t expect to see me in this job this time next season’, or even ‘I don’t really know how this is going to work out, but if I call it a project, it sounds grand’.

Andre Villas-Boas is tarnished by his failed project at Chelsea, Sven-Goran Eriksson probably still has sleepless nights about his bizarre project at Notts County, and Arsenal fans may now be quaking in their boots as their future is given the project treatment.

So if your team’s manager is publicly rubbing his hands together in glee and preparing you all for the start of his project, be afraid, be very afraid. Oh, and start thinking who you want your next manager to be.

He Shoots. He Scores. Goalgasm!

When Fernando Torres rounded Barcelona’s goalkeeper to confirm Chelsea’s place in the Champions League final, you could have been forgiven for thinking that the moment would only remembered for the drama of his goal.

But no. Accompanying the goal came a shriek of delight from Sky co-commentator Gary Neville. It was so high-pitched and excessive it has shot round the internet. It has been dubbed a Goalgasm.

While it is quite clear how this delightful word came to be derived, there is actually no -gasm suffix in English which denotes an outpouring of climactic joy. Orgasm itself is derived from the French orgasme, or modern Latin orgasmus, or Greek orgasmos, from organ ‘swell or be excited’. No Or- with a neatly tucked on -gasm there then.

But this doesn’t matter. The only word which ends -gasm is the aforementioned saucy one, so using it as a suffix automatically confers the correct meaning. I could randomly make up shoegasm, chocloategasm or spoongasm, and you could immediately imagine the kind of reaction somebody would be having to buying a great new pair of shoes, eating superb chocolate, or, er, finding a lovely spoon.

Neville’s reaction is just one of a long line of over-excitable commentaries throughout the ages, while football fans like myself can look back with slight embarrassment to those moments when the emotion of a vital goal made us react in ways we’d rather forget.

So the next time you feel one of those moments coming on, just picture Gary Neville. That should soon calm you down.

What’s In a Name? Just ask Newcastle fans

There was a predictable outcry after Newcastle United announced that their St James’ Park ground is to be renamed the Sports Direct Arena. But putting aside football loyalty, why was this reaction inevitable from a linguistic point of view?

Names may not seem an obvious choice of subject for Wordability, interested as it is in new words and usages in the English Language. Proper names seem somehow outside the normal run of language, and when they are coined, it is not part of a language’s evolution. But proper nouns are fundamental to language and are words we use all the time, so when new names are used, our reaction to them is just as valid as it would be to any other kind of new word. Justification over.

I actually think about people’s names quite often. It is one of the most defining characteristics we have, and yet it is something over which we had no control. It was a decision taken about us by others, possibly before we had even been born, and people may form immediate opinions about us from our name before they have even met us. Don’t believe me? If I told you Tarquin and Persephone were coming round for dinner, you would prepare something different to what you would cook if I said that Wayne and Sharon were popping over.

Of course people do shorten their names, adopt nicknames, use middle names, add variety to the names they were given to help define their personality. But it is much harder to adapt when somebody makes an active change to their name and expects you to get used to it. I knew someone who used different names for different periods of their life, so depending on who you you spoke to about them, they used totally different names to discuss them. Other friends have decided to stop abbreviating their names, but I find it impossible to adjust. Andy, that’s you!

And this is equally true of celebrities. Former footballer Andy Cole suddenly announced he wanted to be known as Andrew Cole. Every time commentators mentioned him, I assumed they were referring to someone I had never heard of. Prince became a squiggle, and all people could do was call him the artist formerly known as Prince. Choosing an emblem has its problems, and had Prince really wanted to make a change, he should have chosen another name. Derek, perhaps.

Which brings us back to Newcastle. The reason that the change to the Sports Direct Arena is so hard for fans to take is that it is like having to use a new word, it is like being told that there has been a fundamental change in the English language, and from now on you have to refer to bread as bacon and to bacon as toast. It is impossible to do. That name is locked in your head as the right word to use for that stadium, and you can’t unlearn a word in your native tongue and replace it with something else.

It’s fine with new stadia. They are brand new concepts, if you like, so they need a new word to describe them. The fact that many of them are sponsored is irrelevant, and if they then go on to change their name again, so what, you hardly had time to get used to it in the first place. Leicester now play at the King Power Stadium. Before that, it was the Walker’s Stadium. Only fan power stopped it being called The Walker’s Bowl before that. Fans know something about what stadia should be called. Newcastle be warned.

Tevez Scores a Language Success

When Carlos Tevez apparently refused to come on for Manchester City in the Champions League this week, it is unlikely that he was thinking much about language, unless of course you count his claim of the whole thing being a misunderstanding.

But unknowingly, the Argentinian striker may have added to the tapestry of the English Language. Within a day, the phrase ‘doing a Tevez’ started to be used, to basically mean to refuse to do your job when politely asked to carry it out.

It’s a bit of a linguistic comedown for the superstar – if you Google “doing a Tevez”, you find a mixture. As well as the references to this week’s events, it seems that doing a Tevez had a previous meaning, referring to a hip-swivelling goal celebration. Amateur players were previously quite proud to do a Tevez if they scored, and many have even put their efforts on YouTube. Not sure how many people will follow suit with the new meaning.

Of course, the delicious irony to all of this is that after five years of playing in England, during which time he has managed to display little mastery of the language, Tevez’s most lasting contribution from his time here might end up being a permanent addition to the vernacular.