Coming next Sunday is the biggest sporting event on the US calendar. A billion people worldwide watch the Super Bowl, the championship game of the US professional football league, and several billion dollars are bet on the game.
We would be derelict if we did not devote our week's theme to such a major event. Today we offer the first of a week's worth of terms from football. I will be curious whether these terms are familiar to our non-USn's.
end run - to bypass (an impediment) often by deceit or trickery (AHD). an evasive trick or maneuver (MW)
The term can be used as either a noun or a verb.
I view the term not as trickery, but as simply going around an obstacle rather than fighting to overcome it -- though that may of course disconcert those who would want to oppose.
An end run does often involve trickery in football as well as in political and legal maneuvering. An end run may be accomplished with the opposition knowing full well what is happening, with only the brilliant blocking by the linemen keeping the runner from being creamed, but more likely some type of subterfuge is involved in an attempt to throw the opponents off-guard. Of course, it doesn't always work.
You might be interested to learn that the term is meaningless in the UK (as, I suspect, will be most terms that relate to American football)
Actually there's a good chance that I'll know most of these. The game that you know just as Football and we know as American Football went through a brief period of popularity over here a few years ago and I was a supporter of a team called the Birmingham Bulls. I've never been much of a sports fan but I used to go to watch most Sundays. By comparison to the transatlantic prototype even the best of the British teams were pretty inept and we had to watch not in the lovely stadiums of the NFL but - in the case of the Bulls - on a scrubby little field located near to Spaghetti Junction*.
The sport's popularity didn't last and wasn't helped by a Bizarre decision to have all the good players join one team (The London Monarchs I think they were called) and join a European League rather than playing in an English League.
My favorite team neam of the time was a juniour league team called the Shepton Mallet Wombats.
(* Spaghetti Junction is a motorway intersection near Birmingham. )
Purgamentum init, exit purgamentum
Read all about my travels around the world here.
Not all of us here in the states are football fanatics, either. I had no idea what an end run in football was.
Here's M-W's definition of "end run" as it applies to football:
Main Entry: end run
1 : a football play in which the ballcarrier attempts to run wide around the end of the line; specifically : SWEEP 3e.
Football. A play in which the ball carrier attempts to run around one end of the defensive line.
The OED defines it slightly different:
end run N. Amer., (a) in American football, an attempt by the ball-carrier to run round his own end (sense 3g) and towards the goal.
It also defines "end around", a term I don't remember hearing before:
end-around, (a) N. Amer. Football, an offensive running play in which an end (sense 3g) carries the ball behind his own team's line and round the opposite end.
It gives quotes from 1934 to 1983 for "end around", but none for "end run" (at least, not that I found).
I suspect both actions are now generally referred to as "end runs".
Of course, you have to know what "end (sense 3g)" refers to:
3g. In American and Canadian football, one stationed at the end of a line or team of players; a wing; the position occupied by such a player.
That brings us to "tight end". Any guesses?
I'm not a football fanatic, either, but I played it in high school, when I was too dumb to know better.
political football – a problem or issue that is discussed among groups or persons without being settled
Wordcrafter comment: often with the sense that groups are keeping the issue unresolved to be used for political benefit. I am frankly surprised how widespread the term has become. Here are examples from the UK, Canada and India.
What makes you think that this saying comes from the American version of football? The variants played in the UK have just as strong a claim; in fact, probably stronger, since we've played it longer.
In England they play football? I thought they play soccer.
No. We play football - you call it soccer to distinguish from America Football (which is a bit like Rugby).
And since we invented just about every sport there is, we have a right to name them!
quote:We play Association Football, Rugby Union Football, and Rugby League Football. A few teams even play American Football.
Arnie raises the challenge, "What makes you think that this saying comes from the American version of football?"
In fairness, I admit that my logic was faulty -- which does not necessarily mean that my conclusion was faulty.
Note that the Halifax quote above refers to being "thrown for a loss on the play". Now, "thrown for a loss" and "the play" are each terms of American football, but not (I presume) of what the rest of the world calls football. Similarly, I found Swazi and Toronto references to "fumbling" a political football, and fumbling is a term pertaining to football only in (I presume) the American version. Based on that I concluded that 'political football' originated with reference to US football.
My logic was faulty. Those quotes show only that the speaker saying 'political football' thought of the term in the context of US football, not that the term arose in that context.
So where did the term arise? I've found at least some data, but will withhold it for now as a challenge our researchers on this board.
I know very little about sport but was forced to play Rugby Football at school. Fumbling was a term used then for poor ball handling.
In Rugby, of course, the ball is handled in much the same way as it is in American football (although not in ordinary football [soccer]).
Perhaps it originated in Australia? Here's the phrase used in reference to Australian Rules Football.
punt - to cease doing something; give up, as in punt on the issue of ...
(A useful discussion in the computing-dictionary which is the final entry here.)
Interestingly, sources indicate that in Australian slang the term means the opposite, 'to attempt a difficult task'. I understand that the British meaning is 'to bet'.
It's odd but in that entire dictionary.com entry, the actual meaning of this idiom is only partially captured.
In American football, the offensive team has four "downs" in which to move the ball 10 yards towards the opposing team's goal line. If the team travels, say, 9 yards and 2 1/2 feet in three downs, the team may elect to use that fourth down to try to gain the remaining six inches. On the other hand, if they have gained no ground (or, through penalties, have even lost ground) they will likely punt the ball to the other team who then will go on the offensive themselves.
With this in mind, we use the idiom "to punt" over here with not just a sense of giving up but with a sense of doing so out of failure to make significant measurable success in whatever it is one is talking about. If I were trying to visit all 50 states and managed to travel to 49 of them, "punting" wouldn't describe my action if I decided to give up on the project. If, however, at the age of 92 I had managed to see just New York, New Jersey, and West Virginia, I might well decide to punt that project and take up whittling!
'Football' has long been used in this figurative sense. OED lists examples going back to 1532, and though the earliest seems rather doubtful, the one from c1600 seems apt: "D am the verye foote-ball of the starres." It seems clear that this usage is too early to be of US origin.
However, the term 'political football' is another matter. For it OED gives three cites, all recent (1971, 1975 and 1977), respectively from the Johannesburg Financial Mail, the Australasian Express, and New Scientist (a UK magazine). It seems odd that OED lacks US cites, though most uses on the web are in the US. And it seems odd that a term birthed in South Africa, of all places, would so quickly become so widely disseminated.
OED is simply wrong. The web reveals that 'political football' appeared in a U.S. political cartoon in Judge magazine during the term of President Harrison, 1889 to 1893. The cartoon's caption:
Excellent point, CJ.
quarterback - to lead or direct the operations of
(After the name of a particular position in football, the quarterback. Use as a verb dates from the late 1940's.)
I view this definition, from AHD, as superior to M-W's in that it implies a more active role. However, AHD says this use is 'slang'; MW does not; and in this I think M-W is correct.
The word in recent use, regarding efforts to control asbestos litigation:
Here in the UK, as mentioned, to punt generally means to have a bet. A punter is a derogatory term for someone making a bet, and by extension a customer. "Mug" is a good synonym for this sense of the word.
By extension, "having a punt on" something is seen as a last-chance opportunity to do it, even if a successful outcome is unlikely, and is thus close to the Australian sense.
Wordnerd, the significance of your post is amazing! Our word forum actually found a mistake in OED. Good work! I think we should let them know.
If any woman should want to inspire her husband to begin divorce proceedings against her, the quickest way is to interrupt his enjoyment of a crucial moment of a major game by asking "How long does a player have to be a quarterback before they make him a halfback?"
Works every time.
British wives are programmed to demand detailed explanation of the "offside rule" at any or all crucial moments of a football (soccer) match.
No matter how many times this is explained, they are unable to make sense of it.
I think that this is linked to their inability to drive and park cars properly - there are some things that are obviously beyond their capabilities.
Hail Mary pass - a desperate, last-minute attempt to save a losing situtation.
My definition. This meaning, apart from the literal football use, is not included in any dictionary I have found, but seems reasonably accepted in the media. Coined December 28, 1975 by quarterback Roger Staubach.
moving the goal posts - changing the rules in the middle of the game; changing what is required to win
"Moving the goal posts" is the only term I have yet understood.
Incidentally, the expression "to punt" also has a meaning in Rugby football (rugger) as I recall from the days when I was forced to play the game.
Rugby balls are oval, (as are, I believe, American footballs). They cannot thus be rolled and and kicked with any accuracy. To punt the ball means to drop and, just before it reaches the ground, to kick it.
Of course, since I couldn't then, and cannot now, kick, throw or otherwise project any ball, of any size, shape or type, in any direction that might approxiamte to that in which I wanted it to go, the whole concept is quite academic so far as I am concerned.
Again, does moving the goal posts really come from the American version of football?
Monday morning quarterback - a secondguesser; one who criticizes or passes judgment from a position of hindsight.
In this thread we touched on soccer, rugby and football. Here is a comic from Sunday's paper that brings it all together:
As I continue through Bill Bryson's book Made in America (1994), I find him claiming that although "football has spawned a vast internal vocabulary ... surprisingly few football terms have entered mainstream English." Bryson offers only four - none of which duplicate what we've seen here. So its fascinating to see so many more here.
Here are the further terms that Bryson's notes, and their definitions:
blindside: as a verb: To catch or take unawares, especially with harmful or detrimental results: "The recent recession, with its wave of corporate cost-cutting, blind-sided many lawyers" (Aric Press)
cheap shot: An unfair or unsporting verbal attack that takes unfair advantage of a known weakness of the target
game plan: A strategy for achieving an objective
jock: An athlete. (etymology, per Bryson: from jockstrap, which in turn traces back to 16th century English slang jock = penis)
It was in this thread where we identified the first error in the OED, and we've discussed others since.
I am not sure that you'd call this an error per se, but it seems to be an intentional (at least according to Nathan Bierma, author of "On Language" in the Chicago Tribune and Anatoly Liberman, professor of medieval literature and linguistics at the University of Minnesota and author of "Word Origins and How We Know Them: Etymology for Everyone.")
Rebecca Solnit has a new volume of essays that explore the theme of getting lost and, more broadly, abandoning certainty: "A Field Guide to Getting Lost." She has been praised for the book, and especially for her incorporation of the etymology of the word "lost." "The word `lost,'" Solnit says, "comes from the Old Norse `los,' meaning the disbanding of an army, and this origin suggests soldiers falling out of formation to go home, a truce with the wide world. I worry now that many people never disband their armies, never go beyond what they know."
Yet, Bierma and Liberman disagree on this etymology, though they theorize that it came from the "obtuse" discussion in the OED. Bierma says, "It says the verb 'lose' (of which 'lost' is a participle) came from the Old English 'losian,' the verb form of the Old English noun 'los,' which meant 'destruction.' Then the OED fudges a bit. It says this Old English word 'corresponds' to the Old Norse word 'los,' which meant 'breaking up of the ranks of an army.'"
Bierma and Liberman say the OED's whole case hinges on this word "corresponds." Liberman says that's a coy way of hiding one's ignorance. They say that while both Old Norse and the Old English words were dervived from the same root, neither borrowed from the other.
Apparently the English word "los" disappeared from texts until the 14th century. Liberman says this makes us wonder whether the 14th century entry were a continuation of the ancient word or a new coincidental formation. He says that no one, including the OED, knows that answer. Both words are "distant relatives," they say (from "leu" in the ancient language of Indo-European), but the English word has nothing to do with 'disbanding of armies.' And our "lost" comes from the English word, not the Norse one.
Again...not a real error, but an interesting take on the OED's attempt to equate "lost" with the Old Norse etymology. I wonder if there are other linguists who disagree with Bierma and Liberman.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Kalleh,