RWP was born in Manchester, in the north of England, in the late 1950s, so he is very old. He really liked the north of England, which by 1965 was hip and had three TV channels, and where he went to a coed school. His parents, for reasons best known to themselves, then yanked him away, to Belfast and then Dublin, which had one TV channel that started up at 6 pm with the Angelus (Catholic call to prayer). He also had to go to an all boys school, where he realized he really missed girls. This probably let him focus on schoolwork, though, and at age 19, after he had finished college, he set off for America, where he still resides. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. from Harvard in biophysics, and has lived also in Mainz, Germany, Setauket NY, and Richland WA. He currently divides his time between Nebraska, Rosslyn VA, and Florida.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

"It's soccer, not football"

Interesting piece on the usage of the word 'soccer', which peaked in the UK in 1980 but has been in decline since. The author suggested that American adoption of the word has been a driver of British disuse of it. I have another hypothesis.

While the word 'soccer' was widely used in the UK and Ireland while I was growing up, it tended to be used by 'quality' newspapers in the UK, and its purpose was to distinguish proletarian association football from rugby union football, which was played by the wealthy. My conjecture is that if you screened for usage rates of 'soccer' vs. 'football' by the Times and Telegraph, on the one hand, versus the Mirror and Sun, on the other, you'd find big differences. In Ireland it was somewhat different; we used 'soccer' to distinguish the game from Gaelic football. The working class in Britain just called soccer 'football'.

As the British boomers grew older and adopted leftish views, in a sort of inverted snobbery that's particularly common in the UK, they rejected their parents' 'soccer' in favor of 'football', as they embraced the egalitarian association football and rugby union became stereotyped as a game played by rich thugs. Now the word 'soccer' is associated with America and is rejected even more vehemently by these same people, but in 1980, when use of 'soccer' in Britain began to decline, nobody knew or cared much about American sport, or what words they used to describe it. It's only with the internet Britons have become so conscious of American usage.

So while the author's data on word usage are invaluable, I think his explanation is somewhat off-base. 'Soccer' iniitially became unfashionable in the UK for an entirely different reason.

Oh, and a belated h/t to Roger Pielke Jr. for tweeting the link to the piece.

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