The World Cup is fast upon us, and while I thought I spoke a suitable (albeit “inferior” some might say) form of English, I’ve come to realize that British English and American English veer in incredibly opposite directions when it comes to sports. Thus, following are explanations of common soccer terms to get you ready for the matches (games).
Pitch / Field
If you’re expecting to see a baseball game when you hear this term, it ain’t gonna happen. Nor will it be preceded by, “The wind up…” And it has nothing to do with a sales proposal. Nope; a pitch is where the match (game) is played. It’s what we Yanks call a field.
Boots, Studs / Cleats, Spikes
Say what? Is this the military? Who’s putting boots on the ground? Nope. Those shoes with the plastic studs on bottom are known as boots in British English. To be sure, those boots aren’t made for walking or marching.
Supporters / Fans
This British term makes me nervous… reminds me of junior high gym class and jock inspection. But that’s not what the Brits are talking about, thankfully. In this context, it’s “Who do you support?” not “What do you support?” I’m a fan of that meaning.
Club / Team
When I think of which club I like, a disco comes to mind. Or; “What club should I use here?” ala golf. But in Britain, the club is the team. So when someone asks you, “What club do you support?” don’t reach for your putter. Club soda, anyone?
Fixtures / Schedule
I’m not even sure where to start here. It’s not a lighting fixture. It’s not being a permanent fixture like a regular sot at the pub. In Britain, fixtures is what we Yanks know as schedule… I mean “ShedUal”. So when you want to know where, when, and against whom your favourite club (team) is playing during the World Cup, you’ll need to look at the fixtures on-line.
Table / Standings
So how is your club doing? Does it have a chance to advance in the World Cup? To find out, check out the Table on-line or in the newspaper. We in the US call it the Standings. Either way, this will let you know if your club will make it to the knock-out round.
Knock-out Round / Single Elimination
Of all the British sports terms I know, this is my favorite and clearest. The word aptly describes what happens when you lose. It’s got nice imagery, as well, thanks to its boxing parallel. How did the Brits beat us to the punch on this one.
Trainers / Coaches
This one’s a real head scratcher. When someone says trainer I think of a gym trainer or boot camp training (“Army Training, sir,” to quote Bill Murray in Stripes). But in Britain, trainers are coaches. To add to the confusion, in the UK trainers can also be gym shoes. .
Draw / Tie
Upon hearing the game was a draw, I tend to reach for my revolver. I’m American, after all. Then again, maybe the clubs (teams) were drawing straws to see who they would play. That’s because…
Draw / Bracket sheet
…the draw can also be the bracket sheet. See if you can sort this one out: “Who’d England draw in the first match of the knock-out round?” What if the game (I mean match) versus the club you draw ends up in a draw? Then there’s a shoot-out. Now that sounds very American and far more intimidating than a tie-breaker.
Mark someone / Guard someone
Another gun reference, this one makes me want to place a bulls-eye on a player from the opposing club (team). Either that or pull out a marker and draw on someone’s arm or leg or kit (uniform). In reality, to mark a player is to guard him, and if he does get the ball, the next thing to do is…
Tackle / Steal
While we Yanks like a good hard tackle in American football, doing it on soccer pitch (field) would end up in a red card dismissal. Instead, when the Brits exclaim, “Nice tackle!” they are referring to the way a player steals the ball off the opposition.
Clean sheet / Shutout
Here the Brits turn to laundry service to describe what we Americans call a shutout, a nil-nil (zero-zero) draw (tie) at the end of the match (game). Are you keeping up with all of this? Incidentally, this lack of scoring is cited as a primary reason that football (soccer) has yet to catch on in the US.
Kit / Uniform or equipment
“Check out that club’s new kit!” I thought this was soccer, I mean football, not sewing class or med school. Wait a minute, kit means uniform or equipment? Really? Not Knight Rider’s car? Now that was kitted out! Come to think of it, “Nice kit” should be a pick-up line. Even better if you like the strip (complete uniform).
Result / Score
Don’t you ask for a result when you talk to the doctor after a medical exam? Maybe following an exam score or court case? Aren’t we talking sports here… football, I mean soccer. Wait, which one is British and which one is American? Even I’m confused as a result of writing this. In the end, all we Yanks really care about is, “Who won?”
Man of the Match / MVP
Maybe it’s just me, but this phrase makes me think of “Man of la Mancha”… Man of la Matcha. A player can receive that honor for a variety of reasons, but if a player scores a brace (hat trick) or if a goalie has a clean sheet (shutout), the chances of being chosen are enhanced. A most valuable explanation, to be sure.
Dressing Room / Locker Room
This isn’t where players go with some new garments to gaze at themselves from various angles in the mirror. It’s where they go to get in and out of their kit (uniform) or talk strategy at halftime. Who knows if there are lockers, but at least some sort of dressing is going on.
There you have it. Maybe this will help to follow the matches more easily when the presenter (broadcaster) provides commentary or when your British friends or co-workers talk about the matches. Why not import some of these new words and try them out with your soccer loving friends and loved ones back in America. There must be a supporter or two you know there.
By Dan Franch, June 2014.