There’s more to sporting terminology than facilitating concise reporting today. Psychologists will argue that the unique language of a sport is perpetuated because it enables those in the know to feel superior.
Sports fans enjoy the sense of being part of a special club. They like to use the language of the few rather than that of the many. Sporting language is a form of elitism whether it be in football, cricket, golf or basketball.
Of course, it isn’t only football or these mentioned sports which have developed their own vocabulary. The language of golf is even more incomprehensible to a novice. In what other context would you talk about making birdies, albatrosses, eagles and condors, unless you were a bird watcher?
It is always an interesting exercise to listen to a radio commentary of a sport you are not familiar with. You quickly begin to question if you have an acceptable grasp of your own language!
Words and phrases are often unique to an individual sport and are not utilised in any other context. Those watching the sport for the first time are inevitably bewildered by all of the excessive use of technical terms
Logic would suggest that sporting vocabulary would have been unified by now so that similar terms could be utilised across all sporting disciplines and possibly all languages. But the exact opposite has happened. Sports are continually evolving new words and phrases rather than simplifying proceedings.
Football English: The Costa Rican left-back made a rash challenge in the area which resulted in a red card and a penalty. The T&T forward stepped up to take the penalty and his audacious Panenka sealed the victory.
Normal English: Costa Rica’s left-sided defender rashly tripped up an opposition player in the penalty area and was punished for this by being shown a red card. This also resulted in a penalty being awarded for T&T. Their most attack-minded player took the penalty kick and audaciously chipped the ball into the centre of the goal, after the goalkeeper had dived, to secure the win.
“Many football terms have been with us for a century or more. However, Panenka is a relatively new addition to the sport’s lexicon. It perfectly illustrates how unexpected events can sometimes require the invention of new terms. From time to time, a new rule is introduced or a player comes up with a novel trick for which there isn’t yet a specific word. As others will copy any new moves, these must-have names.
In 1976, Czech player Antonín Panenka shocked the football world when he took a penalty in the European Championship. Instead of smashing the ball high into the roof of the net or slotting it into the corner of the goal, he waited for the goalkeeper to dive and then gently chipped the ball down the middle. This type of penalty is now almost always referred to in English as a Panenka,” Word Connection’s Language of Sport article stated.
Sports evolve their own terminologies and these can seem strange or even incomprehensible to outsiders.
But many of the resulting words and phrases prove to be so apposite in a variety of contexts that they are just too useful to remain
exclusive to the sporting world.
The Language of Sports Hardcover published March 1, 1983, and written by Tim Considine, explains the meanings of more than 5,000 words, phrases, and slang expressions associated with baseball, football, tennis, boxing, and other sports. It is available on Amazon.
There’s the language used in sport and then there’s what is considered the world’s universal language - Sport.
Melanie Moore, who speaks German, Lithuanian, and Japanese wrote in a Mango Languages blog, “Languages vary across cultures, countries, and communities, creating a beautiful mosaic of diversity. And yet, over time, sports have traversed different geographic and even cultural lines to become part of a universal language.
When people get to participate in an international sporting event, it bridges all kinds of borders. No matter where a sport is played, the whole world recognizes when an athlete reaches incredible feats. And it is an athlete’s passionate pursuit of their sport — as the whole world watches — which unites us all.
Many national teams and athletes travel to destinations more now than in previous years where English may not be the first language. But it does not deter them from enjoying the culture, making new friends, developing themselves more as athletes and human beings and embracing healthy rivalries.
Sport is a common language that is spoken by many people around the world. [It] can play an important diplomatic role in society and can be a powerful platform in breaking down barriers and divisions between people, as well as bringing young people together and fostering greater dialogue and cooperation between different cultures and communities around the world.”
Another example of sports bridging cultural differences can be seen through the work of an organization called PeacePlayers International. This organization hosts basketball games for kids in areas rife with ethnic and religious conflict. For example, they host basketball games for children within historically conflicting communities in the Middle East, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, and South Africa, and also for different multicultural communities within the United States.
Sport is an integral part of the culture that needs no translation. No matter where you are coming from, participating in the shared culture and universal language of sporting events can bring the world closer to understanding one another. So feel free to speak as you wish and enjoy the world’s number one - Sport.
Shaun Fuentes is the head of TTFA Media. He was a FIFA Media Officer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey. The views expressed are solely his and not a representation of any organisation. firstname.lastname@example.org