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What a howler! World Cup teaches U.S. fans new lingo

What a howler! World Cup teaches U.S. fans new lingo

SOCCER SPEAK:U.S. fans react during the 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match between Germany and the U.S. at a viewing party in Hermosa Beach, California June 26. Photo: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN Texas (Reuters) – Fixtures have nothing to do with plumbing, kit means uniform, and clean sheet is a shutout. The World Cup in Brazil has been forcing American fans to learn a whole new sports vocabulary.

With interest in soccer at new highs in the United States, Americans face a new way of speaking about the sport due to a preponderance of British English in broadcasts, which has filtered down to local TV.

The main broadcasters of the World Cup in America, ESPN and ABC, have British commentators, while the U.S. anchors on ESPN’s flagship Sports Center wrapup show use terms such as “match”, “pitch” and “nil” without fear of offending local sensibilities.

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Americans, well aware of the long-standing, “soccer-football” word divide, have been forced in the past few weeks to decode terms such as “boots”, what players have on their feet, and “fixtures”, which are the schedule.

“The matches sound better when a British guy is announcing. You can figure out what they are saying by watching,” said Austin specialty sandwich merchant Lucky Sibilla.

Brilliant is a popular way in British English to describe a well-executed sports play. For example, Uruguay forward Luiz Suarez scored two brilliant goals against England before he bit an Italy defender in their next match and got a nine-match ban.

Some terms are self-explanatory. When the score goes from 1-0 to 1-1, “an equalizer that brought the match level” makes perfect sense.

When a player strikes a hard shot into the goal, and the British announcer says “What a cracker,” that comment is about the quality of the kick and has nothing to do with a salted rectangle holding a slice of cheese. A “howler” is a terrible error, unless a lonely wolf enters the pitch.

Some language is faintly familiar. Extra time would be called overtime in U.S. football, a dive would be called a flop on a basketball court, and overcooked means overdone.

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However, concepts such as time and perspective may be a little more difficult for U.S. sports fans to grasp.

Basketball fans used to clocks that count down to the tenth of a second are challenged to comprehend the fuzzy math of injury time. National Football League fans used to precision may be yelling for the replay official to correct an obvious howler from a referee.

There is one British term Americans sports fans may wish to import – describing an unsportsmanlike act as being “cynical”.

After all, what better word is there to describe a player who dives on an overcooked cross just looking for a penalty in the waning minutes of injury time to break open a nil-nil match?

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by David Gregorio)

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