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"#$%& '(($)*++ ,($ -(../01
=)&$0*.$: 1he world's mosL popular game ls generally known as ºfooLball" ln mosL of Lhe world, lLs full
name belng ºAssoclaLlon looLball". 1here are many oLher verslons of fooLball, e.g. rugby, Caellc,
AusLrallan 8ules and Lhe verslon played ln Amerlca where lL ls called ºfooLball", colloqulally ºgrldlron"
and whlch Lhe resL of Lhe world refers Lo as ºAmerlcan fooLball". Amerlcans have long referred Lo
AssoclaLlon fooLball as ºsoccer", Lo polnL where many people belleve lL ls ln facL a word lnvenLed ln
Amerlca. ln facL, Lhe word ls LhoughL Lo have orlglnaLed ln 8rlLaln aL Lhe end of Lhe nlneLeenLh cenLury
and was commonly used Lhere wlLhouL belng consldered an Amerlcanlsm. Powever, lL appears LhaL as
Lhe popularlLy of soccer has grown ln Lhe uS, Lhe word has been used less and less ln 8rlLlsh Lngllsh. 1hls
paper uses daLa from uses of ºfooLball" and ºsoccer" ln publlcaLlons ln 8rlLaln and Lhe uS slnce 1900 Lo
charL Lhe relaLlve popularlLy of Lhese words and, ln parLlcular, Lo charL Lhe rlse and fall of Lhe word
ºsoccer" ln 8rlLlsh Lngllsh.
>/4?(0@&: fooLball, soccer
l Lhank AnLolneLLe 8enouf for advlce LhaL helped sLarL Lhls pro[ecL, and kevln Cllne for herolc daLa
collecLlon. l also Lhank Shevon uesal, Marl[a lreeland, Lmlly PamsLra, MaLL McCee and llona 8oberLson,
for helpful advlce.
Corresponding address: Department of Kinesiology, University of Michigan, 3118 Observatory Lodge
1402 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2013A1el: (734) 647-0950, lax: (734) 647-2808, email
1ype Lhe phrase ºlL's fooLball noL soccer" lnLo a google search and you unleash a LorrenL of lnvecLlve.
1he lnvecLlve ls almed almosL excluslvely aL Amerlcans, Lhe message ls LhaL Lhe world's mosL popular
game ls properly called ºfooLball" and LhaL Lhe use of Lhe name ºsoccer" ls an Amerlcan lnvenLlon whlch
should be dropped. 1he Lone ls generally abuslve. SomeLlmes Lhere ls wlL- e.g. a plcLure of a
fooLball/soccer player alongslde a player of Lhe game LhaL Amerlcans usually refer Lo as fooLball
(grldlron, or more commonly ln Lhe resL of Lhe world, Amerlcan fooLball) wlLh arrows polnLlng Lo Lhe
ball, Lhe feeL and Lhe hands- and Lhe suggesLlon LhaL Lhe Amerlcan game mlghL be beLLer named ºhand-
egg" (referrlng Lo Lhe oval shape of Lhe Amerlcan ball). 8uL mosLly Lhere seems Lo be [usL anger and
frusLraLlon. Many seek Lo assoclaLe Amerlcan use of Lhe word wlLh alleged Amerlcan lmperlallsm and
culLural hegemony. Pere are some examples
ºlL seems LhaL almosL every Amerlcan can'L undersLand LhaL Lhere ls no sporL called soccer .... lLs
uanlel Cooch , AnalysL Mar 24, 2010, hLLp://bleacherreporL.com/arLlcles/368301-Lo-all-amerlcans-lLs-
º8uL l can'L help buL fear for Lhe sporL of fooLball, or mlghL l say, for Lhe name ºfooLball." l do noL wlsh
Lo be ln a world whlch calls lL soccer. And knowlng Lhe lnfluence LhaL Amerlcan culLural exporLs seem Lo
have on Lhe resL of Lhe world, my fears are deflnlLely [usLlfled."
Þrlyank Chandra uecember 29, 2010, hLLp://blogcrlLlcs.org/lLs-fooLball-noL-soccer/
ºWhlle vldarsson makes an excellenL polnL, Lhe argumenL LhaL soccer should be called fooLball ls far
more compelllng. 1he unlLed SLaLes ls noL only holdlng onLo a grudge lasLlng more Lhan Lwo cenLurles,
buL lLs relucLance Lo call Lhe sporL by lLs approprlaLe name only ralses conLroversy concernlng Lhe game.
As a game LhaL has been around for cenLurles, soccer has earned Lhe rlghL Lo be glven Lhe name of
fooLball. lL ls a far more accuraLe name and ls lnLernaLlonally recognlzed."
!oshua 8ender, lebruary 1, 2013, hLLp://www.uchscommander.com/sporLs/2013/02/01/glvlng-a-name-
ºAssoclaLlon fooLball began lLs conquesL of Lhe world, and evenLually everyone came Lo call Lhe mosL
ublqulLous game ln Lhe world fooLball. And LhaL was LhaL. LxcepL lL wasn'L, because for reasons LhaL are
noL lmmedlaLely apparenL, Lhe Amerlcans declded Lo lnvenL a meeker, ldloLlc verslon of rugby, whlch
Lhey called Amerlcan fooLball. 1hey play Lhe sporL ln helmeLs, and Lhere are more breaks ln lL Lhan ln a
lrench work week. Cne lmaglnes Lhey deslgned lL Lhls way Lo flL ln as many Lelevlslon adverLlslng sloLs as
posslble. And for LhaL reason, whaL Lhey should call fooLball Lhey call soccer. And as only Amerlcans can,
Lhey have sLeadfasLly refused Lo obey Lhe rules of Lhlngs. 1hey always have an alr of falnL surprlse LhaL
Lhe resL of Lhe world does noL call lL soccer."
Slpho Plongwane, 24 !une 2013, hLLp://www.bdllve.co.za/oplnlon/columnlsLs/2013/06/24/lLs-fooLball-
ºl agree, lL compleLly wlnds me up when ever l goLLa Lype soccer ln Who plays soccer anyway???? Lhe
amerlcans, LhaLs all...Lhe resL of Lhe world play proper fooLball. and amerlcan fooLball for a naLlonal
sporL! WPlMÞS!!! l wanna see Lhem play Lhe proper game of rugby, Lhen maybe Lhey can go and name
new sporLs. arrgg goL me all angry Lhen lmao"
8esL answer Lo ºlooLball ls looLball noL Soccer?" on ?ahoo.com
ºuear Amerlcans, Pere ls an lmporLanL lesson for you Lo learn: 1here ls no sporL called "Soccer". 1he
sporL LhaL was lnvenLed beLween Lhe years 220 and 680 (yes, years wlLh 3 dlglLs do exlsL) ls called
looLball. nobody knows why you guys call a sporL LhaL was lnvenLed somewhaL laLer (1869) and ls
played by moLorblkers (LhaL's why Lhey wear helmeLs, noL so?) fooLball. lL's nelLher played wlLh Lhe feeL
nor wlLh a ball. lf you called lL Amerlcan 8ugby l am sure nobody would argue."
8eaL Zlmmermann, !uly 03, 2010, hLLp://alrnavlgaLlonlnsLlLuLe.blogspoL.com/2010/07/and-lLs-fooLball-
º8epeaL afLer me:
lt´s footboll, oot soccet.
lt´s footboll, oot soccet.
lt´s footboll, oot soccet.
lt´s footboll, oot soccet.
lt´s footboll, oot soccet.´
Amber, AugusL 26, 2011, hLLp://www.codeforsomeLhlng.com/2011/08/fooLball-noL-soccer/
(All downloaded 3/18/2014)
Co Lo Coogle lmages for Lhls phrase and you wlll see numerous L-shlrLs, carLoons and relaLed lmages on
Lhe same Lheme. lL ls also posslble Lo buy merchandlse onllne whlch uses Lhls slogan and varlanLs. 1here
are several vldeos onllne uslng varlanLs of Lhe phrase ºlL's fooLball noL soccer", lncludlng one by Lhe
famous 8rlLlsh comedlan !ohn Cleese, addressed Lo Amerlcans on Lhls polnL.
Many of Lhese commenLs emanaLe from Lngllsh speaklng 8rlLaln, buL Lhls dlaLrlbe ls ofLen advanced by
fooLball/soccer fans from oLher naLlons, and noL [usL former 8rlLlsh colonles. Cne blog page llsLs Lhe
word used ln several counLrles for Lhe game, all of whlch are varlanLs on Lhe word ºfooLball", ln order Lo
hlghllghL (crlLlcally) Lhe heLerodox Amerlcan usage.
A smaller mlnorlLy of fans are aware of Lhe facL Lhe name ºsoccer" appears Lo have orlglnaLed ln Lngland
aL Lhe end of Lhe 19
cenLury, and was Lhen adopLed by Amerlcans. An arLlcle ln Lhe onllne verslon of
Lhe Cerman newspaper uer Splegel (!une 7, 2006)
by Lhe Amerlcan/Cerman [ournallsL Mlchael ScoLL
Moore polnLed Lhls ouL. Pe argued LhaL Lhe negaLlve commenLs made by 8rlLlsh observers abouL Lhe use
of Lhe word soccer could be explalned as a reacLlon of Lhe Amerlcan preference for fooLball (grldlron)
over fooLball (soccer): ºA semanLlc reacLlon from Lhe uk ls only Lo be expecLed."
1hls paper explores Lhls semanLlc reacLlon by an analysls of Lhe use of Lhe words ºsoccer" and ºfooLball"
ln Amerlcan and 8rlLlsh publlcaLlons from 1900 unLll Lhe presenL. 1he daLa shows LhaL Lhe use of Lhe
word ºsoccer" ln 8rlLlsh newspapers and books has been ln relaLlve decllne for Lhe lasL LhlrLy years or so,
[usL as Lhe relaLlve frequency of Lhe Lerm ln Amerlcan publlcaLlons has lncreased. 1he peneLraLlon of Lhe
game lnLo Amerlcan culLure, measured by Lhe use of Lhe name ºsoccer", has led Lo backlash agalnsL Lhe
use of Lhe word ln 8rlLaln, where lL was once consldered an lnnocuous alLernaLlve Lo Lhe word
1he daLa also reveals LhaL whlle Lhe word ºsoccer" was known ln 8rlLaln aL Lhe end of Lhe 19
Lhe word was seldom used ln newspapers or ln Lhe LlLles of books, and only sLarLed Lo become popular
afLer Lhe second world war. 1hus ln 8rlLaln Lhe word has experlenced a relaLlvely abrupL rlse and fall,
whereas ln Lhe uS lL appears Lo have grown sLeadlly relaLlve Lo Lhe word ºfooLball" for more Lhan a
:A -(5/ "2(($)*++1 *,@ "&(../01 C7&$(04
Accordlng Lo Lhe Cxford Lngllsh dlcLlonary Lhe flrsL recorded use of Lhe word ºfooLball" ln Lngllsh was ln
1486. A game played on Shrove 1uesday (Mardl Cras) ln London ls descrlbed by Wllllam llLzsLephen ln
1173 (ln laLln), and lL ls wldely con[ecLured LhaL Lhls was a game of fooLball.
Shrove 1uesday fooLball
was popular pracLlce across Lngland
from Lhe mlddle ages unLll Lhe end of Lhe nlneLeenLh cenLury and
laLln chronlcles refer Lo Lhe acLlvlLy of playlng aL ball wlLh Lhe feeL (oJ pllom com peJe). Laws of varlous
klngs ban Lhe playlng of ball games - Ldward ll (1314), Ldward lll (1349), 8lchard ll (1389), Penry lv
(1401) and Ldward lv (1477) - Lhese ordlnances almed aL dlverLlng young men Loward Lhe pracLlce of
archery, more helpful Lo Lhe mlllLary amblLlons of Lhe monarch.
1he anLlquarlan !oseph SLruLL, wrlLlng ln 1801, ldenLlfles Lhe game of ºfooL-ball" and says ºlL was
formerly much ln vogue among Lhe common people of Lngland, Lhough of laLe years lL seems Lo have
fallen lnLo dlsrepuLe, and ls buL llLLle pracLlced" (p168).
AbouL Lhls Llme lL appears LhaL Lhe game
became popular wlLh Lhe arlsLocraLlc boys of Lngland's leadlng schools- LLon, Parrow, WlnchesLer,
8ugby and so on. Lach school developed lLs own verslon of Lhe game. 1he deslre Lo play games agalnsL
boys from rlval schools, especlally whlle aLLendlng unlverslLy (meanlng Cambrldge or Cxford aL LhaL
Llme) requlred some sLandardlzaLlon. 1he flrsL wrlLLen rules of Lhe game were penned ln Cambrldge ln
1848. 1he looLball AssoclaLlon was founded ln London ln 1863 Lo promoLe Lhe game and Lhe rules
adopLed were based on Cambrldge rules. 8uL sLandardlzaLlon creaLed confllcL.
"every year on Lhe day called Carnlval-Lo begln wlLh Lhe sporLs of boys (for we were all boys once)-scholars
from Lhe dlfferenL schools brlng flghLlng-cocks Lo Lhelr masLers, and Lhe whole mornlng ls seL aparL Lo waLch Lhelr
cocks do baLLle ln Lhe schools, for Lhe boys are glven a hollday LhaL day. AfLer dlnner all Lhe young men of Lhe Lown
go ouL lnLo Lhe flelds ln Lhe suburbs Lo play ball. 1he scholars of Lhe varlous schools have Lhelr own ball, and almosL
all Lhe followers of each occupaLlon have Lhelrs also. 1he senlors and Lhe faLhers and Lhe wealLhy magnaLes of Lhe
clLy come on horseback Lo waLch Lhe conLesLs of Lhe younger generaLlon, and ln Lhelr Lurn recover Lhelr losL youLh:
Lhe moLlons of Lhelr naLural heaL seem Lo be sLlrred ln Lhem aL Lhe mere slghL of such sLrenuous acLlvlLy and by
Lhelr parLlclpaLlon ln Lhe [oys of unbrldled youLh."
Cames are recorded as belng played ln London, klngsLon-upon-1hames, ChesLer, Alnlck and Lhe annual game
played ln Ashbourne, uerbyshlre, sLarLed around 1667 and ls sLlll played Loday.
Cn Lhe early hlsLory of Lhe game see e.g. Morrls Marples, A nlstoty of lootboll (London, Secker and Warburg,
1934), A.P. lablan and Ceoffrey Creen (eds), Assoclotloo lootboll, volume Cne (London, CaxLon Þubllshlng, 1960)
and nell WlgglesworLh, 1be ívolotloo of íoqllsb 5pott (London, lrank Cass, 2002)
!oseph SLruLL, 1be spotts ooJ postlmes of tbe people of íoqlooJ (London, ChaLLo & Wlndus, 1898).
1here had always been varlanLs of Lhe ball games whlch lnvolved Lhe use of Lhe hands, and ln Lhe 19
cenLury Lhls verslon of Lhe game came Lo be mosL sLrongly assoclaLed wlLh 8ugby School. ln 1871 a
group of clubs meL ln London Lo form Lhe 8ugby looLball unlon, Lo codlfy and develop Lhelr verslon of
Lhe game. lrom Lhls polnL onwards Lhe Lwo verslons of fooLball were dlsLlngulshed by reference Lo Lhelr
longer LlLles, 8ugby looLball and AssoclaLlon looLball (named afLer Lhe looLball AssoclaLlon). 1hls
dlsLlncLlon ls LhoughL Lo be Lhe orlgln of Lhe ºsoccer". 1he rugby fooLball game was shorLened Lo
ºrugger" (CLu, 1893), a Lerm recognlzed ln 8rlLlsh Lngllsh Lo Lhe presenL day, and Lhe assoclaLlon
fooLball game was, plauslbly, shorLened Lo ºsoccer" (CLu 1891). 1hls Lheory ls supporLed, for example,
by a leLLer Lo new ?ork 1lmes from 1903 (flgure 1).
llgure 1: LeLLer Lo Lhe new ?ork 1lmes, november 23, 1903
8eLween 1830 and 1900 Lhe game of fooLball fragmenLed lnLo a number dlfferenL verslons played ln
varlous parLs of Lhe anglo-saxon world. 8ugby fooLball dlvlded lnLo Lwo codes ln 1893, 8ugby unlon and
8ugby League, prlmarlly on Lhe lssue of paymenL- ºLeague" became professlonal and ºunlon" remalned
amaLeur for an enLlre cenLury. 8oLh rugby codes are played wlLh an oval-shaped ball and allow Lhe use
of feeL and hands. Caellc fooLball, a game developed ln lreland and codlfled ln 1887 ls played wlLh feeL
and hands uslng a round ball, whlle AusLrallan 8ules fooLball, known from aL leasL 1838, ls played wlLh
an oval shaped ball on an oval shaped fleld also uslng boLh feeL and hands. llnally, Lhe game called
ºfooLball" ln Lhe uS (colloqulally ºgrldlron" and ºAmerlcan fooLball" ln 8rlLaln and elsewhere) evolved
ouL of colleglaLe aLhleLlcs ln Lhe laLe 19
cenLury. 1he flrsL offlclally recorded college fooLball game was
played ln 1869 beLween ÞrlnceLon and 8uLgers accordlng Lo 8uLgers 8ules, whlch were a cross beLween
AssoclaLlon looLball and 8ugby looLball rules. Cver Lhe nexL decade or so dlfferenL colleges played Lo
rules LhaL leaned elLher Lowards Lhe AssoclaLlon or 8ugby codes, unLll WalLer Camp, a player and Lhen
coach aL ?ale lnsLlgaLed a serles of developmenLs LhaL creaLed Lhe dlsLlncLlve Amerlcan game.
noLwlLhsLandlng 1abor's complalnLs of heresy, lL seems LhaL Lhe use of ºsoccer" Lo denoLe Lo
AssoclaLlon fooLball game and ºfooLball" for Lhe lndlgenous Amerlcan game Look rooL ln Lhe flrsL decade
of Lhe LwenLleLh cenLury. llgure 2, an arLlcle from Lhe WashlngLon ÞosL ln 1906, provldes a useful
lllusLraLlon of Lhe sLaLus of Lhe word ºsoccer" ln Lhe uS aL Lhls Llme. Concerns abouL Lhe bruLallLy of
grldlron had been expressed ln Lhe 1890s, buL a crlsls arose ln 1903 when several college players dled
durlng games. ÞresldenL 8oosevelL lnsLlLuLed a process of reform durlng 1903-1906 whlch led ulLlmaLely
Lo slgnlflcanL rule changes and lncreased safeLy. uurlng Lhls process Lhere was a naLlonal debaLe over
Lhe poslLlon of ºfooLball" ln socleLy and several colleges suspended Lhe game. As Lhe arLlcle suggesL,
alLernaLlves were consldered, and AssoclaLlon fooLball was champloned by many (lncludlng Penry
Chadwlck, Lhe ºfaLher of baseball"). Clearly aL Lhls Llme boLh ºAssoclaLlon fooLball" and ºsoccer" were
recognlzed names of Lhe game, wlLh Lhe laLLer belng more colloqulal.
Cn Lhe early hlsLory of fooLball ln Amerlca see e.g. !ohn Lucas and 8onald SmlLh, 5oqo of Ametlcoo 5pott
(Þhlladelphla, Lea & leblger, 1978), 8en[amln 8ader, Ametlcoo 5potts lourLh LdlLlon (new !ersey, Þearson
LducaLlon, 1999). Cn Lhe hlsLory of AusLrallan 8ules looLball see Ceoffrey 8lalney, A Come of Oot Owo. 1be Otlqlos
of Aosttolloo lootboll (Melbourne, SchwarLz Þubllshlng, 2003). Cn Lhe hlsLory of rugby fooLball and break beLween
Lhe Lwo codes see 1ony Colllns, koqby's Cteot 5pllt. closs, coltote ooJ tbe Otlqlos of koqby leoqoe lootboll
(London, 8ouLledge, 2006). Cn Lhe hlsLory of Caellc fooLball see Mark uuncan, Mlke Cronln and Þaul 8ouse, 1be
CAA. A leople's nlstoty (Cork, Colllns Þress, 2009).
'7DB0/ :E F*&C7,D$(, G(&$ H*,B*04 8 8I;J
KA LC/ B&*D/ (2 $C/ ?(0@& 7, M07$*7, *,@ $C/ N-
l examlne Lhe changlng frequency of usage of Lhe words ºsoccer" and ºfooLball" slnce 1900. 1o do so l
rely malnly on word counLs from Lhe 1lmes of London and 1he new ?ork 1lmes. l have also looked aL Lhe
frequency of appearance of Lhese words ln Lhe LlLles of books publlshed ln Lhe uk drawn from A looLball
Compendlum publlshed ln 1999. llnally l have looked aL word frequencles from a corpus daLabase for
Lhe uk newspapers 1he Cuardlan and 1he lndependenL from 1984 Lo 2012, and also for Lhe Amerlcan
magazlne 1lme from 1923 Lo 2006.
O7P LC/ Q(,@(, *,@ R/? S(06 L75/&
1able 1 summarlses Lhe frequencles of Lhe words ºsoccer" and ºfooLball" ln 1he 1lmes of London by
decade slnce 1900.
unLll Lhe 1970s Lhe frequencles for boLh words Laken LogeLher were growlng my or
less ln llne wlLh Lhe slze of Lhe newspaper, and hence Lhe fracLlon of arLlcles referrlng Lo Lhe sporL
remalned roughly consLanL beLween 1° and 2°. 1he lasL Lhree decades are assoclaLed wlLh a slgnlflcanL
lncrease, appearlng ln almosL 6° of arLlcles ln Lhe mosL recenL decade. 1hls reflecLs Lhe growlng culLural
slgnlflcance of sporL and fooLball/soccer ln parLlcular.
1he Lhlrd column ln Lhe Lable lllusLraLes LhaL references Lo Lhe word ºsoccer" have lncreaslngly been
assoclaLed wlLh an Amerlcan conLexL. Ma[or League Soccer dld noL sLarL unLll 1996, followlng Lhe hosLlng
of Lhe lllA World Cup ln Lhe uSA ln 1994, whlch generaLed a very large splke ln menLlons of Lhe word
ºsoccer". ln 1994 ºsoccer" appeared 1103 Llmes, more Lhan double Lhe average for Lhe prevlous flve
years (333) and 30° more Lhan Lhe average over Lhe followlng flve years (836). 8y conLrasL menLlons of
Lhe word ºfooLball" ln 1994 barely lncreased.
L*)+/ 8E "2(($)*++1 *,@ "&(../01 7, $C/ Q(,@(, L75/&
1he dlglLal onllne archlve was accessed vla Lhe unlverslLy of Mlchlgan Llbrary. Word searches were conducLed on
a year by year basls.
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+, 25,.-% 6782 ,.
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DEFF GHHE FIFDJ FIDGJ FIFFD
DEDF KHDG FIFDF FIDKL FIFFJ
DEMF DDDJL FIFDG FIFEG FIFFL
DEJF DGMND FIFDH FIDLN FIFFL
DEGF NFEJ FIFDJ FIFED FIFFL
DEKF EHLL FIFDN FIDLK FIFMM
DENF DJDFE FIFDN FIJGJ FIFGL
DEHF DJEJK FIFDE FIMKN FIFLF
DELF MEJEJ FIFME FIJMJ FIFNJ
DEEF NHGMN FIFGM FIKDE FIFKH
MFFF EJEEK FIFKH FIGKN FIFGL
1he Lable shows LhaL Lhe word soccer has always had an Amerlcan assoclaLlon, buL LhaL lL has lncreased
sharply ln recenL years. lor Lhe flrsL half of Lhe LwenLleLh cenLury Lhese assoclaLlons accounLed for
beLween 9.1° and 18.6° of menLlons, whlle ln Lhe lasL Lwo decades roughly half of all menLlons are ln
1he lasL column of 1able 1 shows Lhe frequency of Lhe menLlons of Lhe ºsoccer" as a percenLage of all
arLlcles conLalnlng elLher Lhe word ºsoccer" of ºfooLball". 1hls shows LhaL ºsoccer" was only rarely used
ln Lhe flrsL half of Lhe LwenLleLh cenLury accounLlng for less Lhan 1° of references Lo elLher word, buL
became much more popular afLer World War 1wo. AL lLs peak ln Lhe 1970s lL accounLed for 8° of all
menLlons of Lhe word, buL slnce Lhen lL has fallen lnLo slgnlflcanL decllne. 1hls ls besL seen ln flgure 3.
1he posL-war lncrease seems Lo Lake place ln Lwo dlsLlncL phases. llrsLly, from 1930 Lhere ls a falrly
sLeady lncrease from around 1° Lo nearly 4° ln Lhe lasL 1930s where lL seems Lo sLablllze unLll Lhe mld-
1960s, and Lhen a slgnlflcanL [ump ln 1967 (Lhe year afLer Lngland won Lhe World Cup) Lo almosL 12°,
lL may be LhaL Lhls undersLaLes Lhe lmporLance of Lhe Amerlcan connecLlon, slnce an arLlcle abouL soccer ln Lhe
uSA need noL lnvolve only Lhe speclflc keywords consldered here.
from when on lL osclllaLes beLween 3° and 13° unLll 1980, afLer whlch lL decllnes Lo beLween 3° and
9°. 1he average for Lhe perlods 1967-1980 ls 8.3° whlch Lhe average for Lhe perlod 1981-2008 ls 3.7°,
whlch ls slgnlflcanLly smaller (p = 0.0007).
1he daLa for Lhe new ?ork 1lmes dlsplay a dlfferenL Lrend, as can be seen from flgure 4 and 1able 2.
llgure 4 suggesLs LhaL, absenL Lwo large splkes, one ln 1914 and Lhe oLher ln Lhe years leadlng up Lo
1980, Lhere has been a falrly sLeady upward Lrend ln Lhe use of Lhe word ºsoccer" relaLlve Lo ºfooLball",
growlng from around 10° lf Lhe flrsL decade on Lhe 20
cenLury Lo around one Lhlrd of all menLlons ln
Lhe lasL decade.
1he 1914 splke ls parLlcularly lnLeresLlng slnce Lhe menLlons of soccer acLually exceed Lhe menLlons of
fooLball, desplLe Lhe facL LhaL mosL hlsLorles of sporL do noL ldenLlfy Lhls a parLlcularly slgnlflcanL
momenL ln Lhe hlsLory of Amerlcan soccer. Some sampllng of Lhe arLlcles ln LhaL year suggesL LhaL Lhe
evenL ls noL a phanLom and Lhere genulnely were a large number of reference Lo Lhe game, and lndeed
Lhese were spread among a large number of evenLs, boLh played by Amerlcans and Lourlng Leams from
Lhe uk. lL may be LhaL aL Lhls polnL 8rlLlsh Leams were Lrylng hard Lo spread Lhe game ln Lhe uS, as Lhey
had across much of Lhe resL of Lhe world, and LhaL Lhese efforLs were bearlng some frulL, only Lo be
lnLerrupLed by 8rlLaln's enLry LhaL year lnLo World War Cne.
1he splke ln 1980 colncldes wlLh Lhe hlghpolnL of Lhe nASL, a professlonal league LhaL operaLed ln Lhe
uS beLween 1968 and 1984. ln Lerms of aLLendance Lhe league peaked ln 1980 wlLh 3.3 mllllon LlckeLs
sold, whlle peak coverage on neLwork 1v was ln 1979 and 1980 when 9 and 8 games respecLlvely were
shown on A8C. AbouL Lhls Llme Lo league sLarLed Lo geL lnLo flnanclal dlfflculLles and flnally collapsed ln
1984. uurlng Lhe 1980s Lhe ºsoccer"'s share of menLlons decllnes, only Lo revlve slgnlflcanLly wlLh Lhe
hosLlng of Lhe 1994 lllA World Cup.
1he 1980 peak share of ºsoccer" ln Lhe new ?ork 1lmes also colncldes wlLh Lhe peak share of Lhe word
ln Lhe London 1lmes, whlle Lhe share decllnes ln boLh newspapers ln Lhe 1980s. 1he dlfference ls LhaL
Lhe share has noL shown slgns of recovery ln Lhe London 1lmes, whlle lL has ln Lhe new ?ork 1lmes.
1he dlglLal onllne archlve was accessed vla Lhe unlverslLy of Mlchlgan Llbrary. Word searches were conducLed on
a year by year basls.
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A looLball Compendlum by ÞeLer Seddon was flrsL publlshed ln 1993, followed by a second edlLlon ln
1he book descrlbes lLself as ºa blbllography of all books and serlals publlshed ln Lhe unlLed
klngdom or Lhe 8epubllc of lreland abouL Lhe game of assoclaLlon fooLball" ln all lLs aspecLs. 1he source
for ldenLlfylng Lhese publlcaLlons ls Lhe 8rlLlsh Llbrary, whlch ls Lhe copyrlghL llbrary for Lhe uk and
publlshers are legally requlred Lo deposlL one copy of every LlLle Lhey lssue. 1he book ls dlvlded lnLo 14
secLlons, deallng wlLh hlsLory and developmenL, club hlsLorles, personallLles, uk Cup compeLlLlons, Lhe
lnLernaLlonal game, waLchlng Lhe game, Lheory and pracLlce, fooLball as buslness, llLeraLure and arLs,
reference books, wlL and humour, hobbles and pasLlmes, fllms, muslc and sound recordlngs. lor many of
Lhese caLegorles publlcaLlons seldom lnclude elLher Lhe word ºfooLball" or ºsoccer" (e.g. llLeraLure and
Lhe arLs), some would only lnclude Lhe word ºfooLball" (e.g. club hlsLorles, slnce Lhe offlclal name of
mosL clubs ls ºx fooLball club", buL ºsoccer" ls never used ln Lhe offlclal club name) and some refer Lo
genres LhaL are relaLlvely recenL (e.g. of 93 publlcaLlons on Lhe buslness of fooLball, only 9 were
publlshed before 1980, and Lwo before 1970). 1hus ln only four secLlons ls Lhere a hlgh proporLlon of
publlcaLlons conLalnlng elLher word and whlch lnclude slgnlflcanL number over Lhe enLlre 20
personallLles (mosLly player blographles and auLoblographles), Lheory and pracLlce, reference books and
wlL & humour.
llgure 3 and 1able 3 shows Lhe share of publlcaLlons wlLh ºsoccer" ln Lhe LlLle beLween 1900 and 1998
(Lhe lasL year covered by Lhe compendlum). llgure 3 shares some slmllarlLy wlLh flgure 3, and lndeed Lhe
correlaLlon coefflclenL ls 0.6. ln boLh cases ºsoccer" ls seldom used before Lhe second world war, lLs
usage rlses sharply afLer Lhe war, peaks and Lhen has decllned ever slnce. Cne dlfference ls LhaL Lhe peak
ln Lhe use of Lhe word soccer ls abouL LwenLy years earller ln uk publlcaLlons Lhan ln 1he 1lmes, and by
1980 ls ln very marked decllne.
looLball blographles and auLoblographles are parLlcularly lnLeresLlng ln Lhls respecL. lamous
personallLles are llkely Lo be senslLlve Lo Lhe cholce of name, glven Lhe lnLense scruLlny of Lhe llves and
acLlons of Lhese lndlvlduals. Clven Lhe anLlpaLhy Lo Lhe word ºsoccer" ln Lhe uk Loday, lL mlghL surprlse
many people Lo know LhaL many of Lhe mosL famous personallLles of Lhe 1960s and 70s used Lhe word
ºsoccer" ln Lhelr auLoblography. 1hus Slr MaLL 8usby, Lhe celebraLed manager of ManchesLer unlLed ln
Lhe 1930s and 60s enLlLled hls auLoblography ºSoccer aL Lhe Lop". Cne blography of Ceorge 8esL, Lhe
mosL famous player of Lhe era, was LlLled ºCeorge 8esL: Lhe lnslde sLory of soccer's super-sLar". !lmmy
Plll, one of Lhe mosL lnfluenLlal flgures ln Lhe developmenL of Lngllsh fooLball enLlLled hls auLoblography
as a player ºSLrlklng for Soccer" ln 1961, whlle Lhe auLoblography of !ohn Charles, a greaL player of Lhe
1930s was LlLled ºklng of Soccer".
ÞeLer Seddon, A lootboll compeoJlom. Ao íxpett ColJe to tbe 8ooks, lllms & Moslc of Assoclotloo lootboll,
second edlLlon (London, 1he 8rlLlsh Llbrary, 1999)
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AnoLher klnd of publlcaLlon whlch lllusLraLes Lhe wldely accepLed usage of Lhe word ºsoccer" ls a genre
known as º8oys' Annuals" whlch flourlshed beLween Lhe 1930s and 1980s and were almed aL Lhe markeL
for young boys, ofLen glven as ChrlsLmas presenLs (women and glrls were largely dlscouraged from
showlng an lnLeresL ln Lhe game ln Lhe uk unLll recenLly, lndeed, beLween 1921 and 1971 Lhe looLball
AssoclaLlon banned women's games). Cf 73 publlcaLlons llsLed beLween 1949 and 1993, 29 conLaln Lhe
word ºsoccer" ln Lhe LlLle, compared Lo 32 LhaL conLaln Lhe word ºfooLball". lndeed, ºsoccer" seems Lo
have survlved somewhaL longer Lhan ln oLher genres, conslsLenL wlLh Lhe ldea LhaL lL was a [uvenlle
alLernaLlve Lo Lhe more formal name ºfooLball" and Lherefore remalned accepLable.
O777P LC/ WB*0@7*,X LC/ #,@/U/,@/,$ *,@ L75/ 9*D*37,/
1wo furLher sources conflrm Lhe Lrends descrlbed Lhus far ln 8rlLaln and Lhe unlLed SLaLes. WebCorp ls a
large and up-Lo-daLe daLabase of elecLronlc LexL corpora and covers Lwo broadsheeL 8rlLlsh newspapers,
1he Cuardlan and 1he lndependenL from 1984 Lo Lhe presenL day.
A search for frequencles of Lhe
words ºfooLball" and ºsoccer" shown LhaL Lhe use of Lhe former has grown dramaLlcally ln Lhe lasL Lhree
decades, whlle use of Lhe laLLer has sLagnaLed (flgure 6). 1hus ln 1984 Lhere were 1,010 menLlons of Lhe
word ºfooLball" ln Lhe Lwo publlcaLlons, rlslng Lo 18,114 by 2012, an elghLeen-fold lncrease. 8y conLrasL
Lhe use of Lhe word ºsoccer", whlle lncreaslng, had only rlsen from 226 Lo 716, abouL Lhree-fold. Pence
Lhe percenLage of references Lo Lhe game uslng ºsoccer" fell from 18° Lo under 4°.
8y conLrasL, Lhe onllne daLabase for 1lme magazlne runnlng from 1923 Lo 2006 shows a slgnlflcanL
relaLlve lncrease ln Lhe use of Lhe word ºsoccer" (flgure 7).
unllke Lhe oLher publlcaLlons dlscussed
here, Lhere has been relaLlvely llLLle grow ln Lhe use of Lhe words over Llme. 1hus ln 1923 fooLball was
menLloned 67 Llmes, and soccer noL once, whlle by 2003 fooLball was menLloned only 34 Llmes, whlle
soccer was menLloned 28 Llmes. noneLheless, lL ls clear LhaL Lhe soccer's share has grown slnce around
1980, and ln several years has acLually achleved more menLlons Lhan fooLball.
Accesslble from hLLp://www.webcorp.org.uk:8080/lndex.hLml
1he 1lme Archlve was accessed vla Lhe free servlce provlded by 8rlgham ?oung unlverslLy aL
<A Y7&.B&&7(, *,@ .(,.+B&7(,&
1hls paper has dlscussed Lhe wldespread anLlpaLhy ouLslde Lhe uS Lo Lhe use of Lhe word ºsoccer" Lo
descrlbe Lhe game LhaL ls oLherwlse generally known as ºfooLball". 1he purpose of Lhls paper has been
Lo place Lhls observaLlon ln Lhe wlder conLexL of Lhe use of Lhe word ln 8rlLlsh and Amerlcan publlcaLlons
slnce 1900. 1he followlng concluslons seem warranLed
(l) ºfooLball" ls a venerable word ln Lhe Lngllsh language, whlch descrlbed a varleLy of medleval
pasLlmes, and whlch was adopLed Lo descrlbe several dlfferenL formal codes ln Lhe lasL half
of Lhe nlneLeenLh cenLury, lncludlng AssoclaLlon fooLball, 8ugby fooLball (unlon and League
verslons), Caellc fooLball, AusLrallan 8ules looLball and whaL Amerlcans Lyplcally call
fooLball and Lhe resL of Lhe world calls ºAmerlcan fooLball"
(ll) ºsoccer" appears Lo be a colnage from Lngland aL Lhe very end of Lhe nlneLeenLh cenLury,
LhoughL Lo be assoclaLed wlLh upper mlddle class sLudenLs aL ellLe unlverslLles, noLably
Cxford and Cambrldge. lL was qulckly adopLed ln Lhe uS as a way Lo dlsLlngulsh lL from
grldlron, and was wldely ln use ln Lhe uS ln Lhe flrsL decade of Lhe LwenLleLh cenLury
(lll) Whlle ºsoccer" was a recognlzed Lerm ln 8rlLaln, lL was noL wldely used ln publlcaLlons ln Lhe
flrsL half of Lhe LwenLleLh cenLury. Powever, afLer Lhe second world war Lhe word came Lo
be used much more frequenLly ln publlcaLlons, and aL lLs peak somewhere beLween 1960
and 1980 lL seems Lo have been almosL lnLerchangeable ln 8rlLaln
(lv) Slnce 1980 Lhe usage of Lhe word ºsoccer" has decllned ln 8rlLlsh publlcaLlons, and where lL
ls used, lL usually refers Lo an Amerlcan conLexL. 1hls decllne seems Lo be a reacLlon agalnsL
Lhe lncreased usage ln Lhe uS whlch seems Lo be assoclaLed wlLh Lhe hlghpolnL of Lhe nASL
1he maln purpose of Lhls arLlcle has been Lo lllusLraLe Lhe Lrends ln usage. lL ls posslble Lo offer some
speculaLlons ln explanaLlon of Lhese Lrends. Cne key dlfference ln Lhe usage of ºsoccer" ln 8rlLaln and
Lhe uS seems Lo have Lo do wlLh soclal sLaLus. ln 8rlLaln Lhe word seems carrled boLh an ellLlsL
connoLaLlon - Lhe language of Lhe rullng class - and an alr of lnformallLy. lL was, posslbly, [usL a llLLle Loo
colloqulal ln Lhe flrsL half of Lhe LwenLleLh cenLury for use ln hlgh-brow newspapers such as 1he 1lmes of
London or Lo be used ln Lhe LlLle of a book. ln Lhe uS lL seems Lo have had a more democraLlc flavor -
everyone used lL - and more easlly shlfLed from a colloqulallsm Lo a proper name because of Lhe uLlllLy
of dlsLlngulshlng lL from Lhe oLher ºfooLball".
1he lnLeresLlng [uncLure, Lhen, seems Lo be Lhe rlse of Lhe word ºsoccer" ln 8rlLaln afLer 1943. Þosslbly
Lhls reflecLs a more relaxed socleLy ln posL-war era and a move Loward more lnformal modes of
expresslon. AnoLher posslblllLy ls LhaL Amerlcan soldlers sLaLloned ln 8rlLaln durlng Lhe war made Lhe
use of Lhe word more popular- aL Lhls Llme Amerlcans and Amerlcan culLure was generally admlred and
Lhelr mannerlsms copled. lndeed, Lhe popularlLy of Amerlcan ways and more lnformal modes of
expresslon may well have relnforced each oLher. 1he evldence presenLed here suggesLs LhaL Lhe word
ºsoccer" ln 8rlLaln was ofLen assoclaLed wlLh more lnformal modes of expresslon, and ofLen used ln
formaLs deemed sulLable for chlldren.
WhaLever Lhe case, Lhls relaLlvely recenL hlsLory seems now largely forgoLLen, and ouLslde of Lhe uS Lhe
word seems Lo be ln decllne. WlLh soccer growlng ln popularlLy ln Lhe uS and Lhe resL of Lhe world
sLrldenLly lnslsLlng LhaL Lhe word ls fooLball noL soccer, lL would appear LhaL some klnd of resoluLlon wlll
evenLually be requlred. Þerhaps some hlsLorlcal perspecLlve mlghL help.