football & soccer in British English

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Alaor Santos, May 17, 2011.

  1. Alaor Santos Senior Member

    Curitiba, Paraná, Brasil
    Portuguese Brazil
    Hi everyone!

    I would like to know how you English guys refer to soccer and American football? American people say both football and soccer to refer to two different kinds of a game. In British English, how do make the difference between those two kinds of sport?

    Thank you
  2. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
  3. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    Football is association football, American football is American football (although its almost never played here)
  4. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    If a BE speaker says "football" to another BE speaker, association football is implied. If a BE speaker wants to discuss American football with another BE speaker, he/she says "American football".
  5. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    I'm reviving this thread.

    Sorry but, despite the numerous topics on the subject, I haven't been able to find a specific answer to my specific question. It's about British English exclusively.

    My friends and I are debating on whether or not the word soccer is used at all in contemporary British English.

    I contend that yes, it is used in BE, concurrently with the word football. (+ association football, footy, footie, depending on the register)

    I remember seeing English sports newspaper with the word soccer in them
    I think I remember hearing English friends use the word.
    I know there's a program on Sky Sports (UK TV channel) called Soccer Saturday

    I suspect football is more frequently used than soccer for the game itself -- remember; I'm only refering to British English. But I reckon soccer must be more common in compound words, like soccer field, soccer shoes, and so on....

    Could you BE speakers please tell me where I am right or wrong ?
  6. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    I would think that this is a job for the Google N-gram viewer

    Football is massively more common than soccer when referring to the game. "soccer" seems almost foreign to me.

    Soccer is often used by headline (and, as you point out, title) writers for the assonance "Soccer Star's Sex Shame!!!" etc. but soccer is rarely used in conversation.

    I'm afraid that your rule on compounds does not make the grade. It is a football pitch (not field), football ground (the actual stadium and all it contains), football boots (not shoes), football referee, football players, football game, football memorabilia, etc.

    Yes, you will find soccer used but, as I say, it is uncommon. Otherwise see sound shift's post at #4
  7. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    LV4-26, "soccer" is used in BE, but not nearly as frequently as "football". As I see it, there are at least four situations in which "soccer" is used in preference to "football" in Britain:

    (1) The speaker is a rugby fan and wants to imply that rugby is the "true" football, so he refers to the round-ball game as "soccer". (Some rugby clubs are in fact called "X Football Club", as if rugby is claiming the word "football" for itself.)
    (2) For the purpose of alliteration, as in the programme called Soccer Saturday that you mention (and in the long-gone ITV Midlands programme, possibly remembered by Paul, called Star Soccer: "Hinton ... O'Hare ... Hector ... Goal!!!" ;))
    (3) Americanisation: A tv station or a magazine located in the UK may be American-owned and operating a policy of introducing American terms.
    (4) Marketing: A UK-based magazine may use the term "soccer" on its cover if it is seeking sales in countries which know the game as "soccer". This is the case with "World Soccer" magazine (but inside that magazine, the term used is "football"). Also, if someone else owns the rights to a title that includes the word "football", you can substitute "football" for "soccer".

    I have never used the term "soccer field". I would not expect to hear it from anyone interested in the game in the UK. I say "football pitch".
    I don't say "soccer shoes" either. I say "football boots".
    You won't find the initials "SC" on the official crest of any of England's professional football clubs, but you'll find "FC" on the crest of most clubs.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  8. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Thanks Paul Q and sound shift. That settles the point for me.

    Special thanks to sound shift for his detailed explanation.
  9. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I enjoyed the update on the current usage of the word soccer in my country of birth. It is like the word hog, in that it was in use in England first and remains in use in the US while almost completely disappearing from the UK. - and is now considered an Americanism :)

    (Apparently the etymology goes like this: Rugger is a nickname of Rugby football and the Football Association tried to popularize the term soccer as a parallel. Without much success, it would appear).
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  10. funnyhat Senior Member

    Michigan, USA
    American English
    From what I've read, "soccer" and "football" were once used almost equally in the UK, but over the last 40 years or so, "football" has clearly become the preferred term.
  11. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    What makes you say that, funnyhat?

    It doesn't, at all, reflect my recollections:).
  12. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    The ngram certainly disputes that. Football has always been far more frequent than soccer​ in BrE.
  13. Warsaw Will Senior Member

    Warsaw, Poland
    English - UK
    Football is by far the commoner term in Britain, to the extent that many Brits don't realise that the word soccer in fact originated in England and think it's an Americanism. But I went to a (British) school where the main winter game was rugby, and we certainly used the word soccer to differentiate it from what we usually called rugger.

    But there could be an aspect of social class here. Although it is no longer true today, football /soccer was traditionally a working-class sport, while rugby union was mainly played at private schools attended by the (upper) middle class (except in Wales, where it seems to be classless). Rugby League is an exception, but was geographically quite limited. I imagine football was always the term used more by football fans, while soccer was used more by middle class rugby fans.

    Ngram suggests that the use of soccer in British books only started to take off around 1920, and was never anywhere as popular as football (although that will also include some instances of 'rugby football, no doubt)'.
  14. Hitchhiker Senior Member

    Washington DC USA
    There are several English speaking countries outside of the UK that use the term soccer, sometimes more frequently than football. Soccer is the popular term in South Africa.
  15. funnyhat Senior Member

    Michigan, USA
    American English
    I may have overstated that slightly but this paper ( reports that the term soccer "at its peak somewhere between 1960 and 1980 seems to have been almost interchangeable [with football] in Britain." Its use in British publications has since declined.

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