It is unlikely that during the tumultuous few day which have just passed in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI thought much about the linguistic ramifications of his decision to stand down. But an act unprecedented in modern times created a linguistic vacuum which had to be filled. And that chasm was the question of what to call a living Pope when he is no longer a Pope.
I don’t think this was really much of a concern when Gregory XII quit in 1415. There wasn’t a hungry news cycle or hordes of social networks crying out for an epithet with which to title the newly unemployed holy man. But in the 21st century, one of the key questions is what new title do you come up with for a role that nobody ever thought would need to be filled. So step forward Pope Emeritus.
It’s a really interesting example of a title that almost creates more problems than it solves. And it is simply the inclusion of the word ‘Pope’ that does it. The situation will surely be difficult enough for the next Pope to have to take over when his predecessor is still alive, and therefore in the eyes of some still in his role. So for him to still be called Pope, as well as the fact that he will be living close by, could simply make things harder.
Of course, the other issue is that the Vatican could be sued, with Oakland Rapper Pope Emeritus threatening action to protect the name he has performed under since 2006. I suspect the ecumenical issues will provide bigger concerns than the legal ones.
But job titles really are very important for how people cope with their roles. Even if the newly-named Pope Emeritus simply slips into the background and there are no problems at all, we can look elsewhere for confirmation. Chelsea’s interim manager Rafa Benitez proved it this week with his stupendous rant about everything, in particular his job title. Calling him ‘Interim Manager’ has clearly left him feeling angry and undermined, it has been a simple thing which he feels has profoundly affected his ability to do his job.
Of course drawing a connection between the Pope and a football manager is doing at least one of them a disservice, but to complete the analogy, just think about what might happen at Old Trafford when Sir Alex Ferguson finally calls it a day.
When Sir Matt Busby stepped down from the hot seat, his continued presence at the club made things difficult for his successors. When Sir Alex finally goes, his shadow will inevitably hang over the next man in the role. So imagine him sitting in the best seat in the ground while bearing the title ‘Manager Emeritus’. Think how difficult that would be for the new incumbent. Correct, very difficult. And that’s just how it might be for the new Pope.
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.
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.