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.