semi-OT:  capitalization of football codes? 
Posted: 10 September 2018 07:44 AM   [ Ignore ]
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If our host will forgive a question not strictly on topic, I am writing about the historical development of football, in its various forms.  I am avoiding the words “soccer” and “gridiron.” Instead, when context does not make clear which code I am discussing I am writing out the names.  My question is one of style.  Which bits should be capitalized?  It seems clear to me that “American football” needs to be capitalized every time.  What about the code of the Rugby Union?  Is it “Rugby football” or “rugby football”?  How about if I omit the word “football”?  Is it “Rugby” or “rugby”?  Then there is the code of the Football Association.  I am happy to call it “Association football.” This seems to me to call for the capital, where “rugby football” feels acceptable.  This seems inconsistent.

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Posted: 10 September 2018 06:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I would think that “rugby”, by itself, would never be capitalized, but I am not English except for some DNA stats that I’ve been told about.

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Posted: 10 September 2018 10:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I am English, and I would also never capitalise rugby. (By the way, RH, I hope you’re aware that there are two rugby codes; union - by far the best-known and most played internationally - and league.) But my being English actually disqualifies me from assisting in your A/association football quandary, because the phrase is simply not used over here at all except in officialese; the single unqualified word football is universally understood to mean that code, and that’s almost the only term we do use. (Soccer is a strictly public-school (i.e. upper-class) slang term, which would mark the user as a ‘posh git’, and certainly no football fan.)

Probably irrelevant to your specific query, but I’ll tell it here anyway: a while ago I read an article about the history of rugby (union) in the Republic of Georgia. The Georgians had always played a primitive full-contact form of football called lelo burti - the kind where all the adult males of one village tussle with the males of another to get the ball across a stream / to the church door, which also still survives in some individual communities across Europe - so they were very open to the concept of rugby, and their national team is now a force to be reckoned with. However, rugby was not without rivals; a couple of decades ago many Georgians were attracted to a rival game introduced from a faraway country, which they called Ozirulz. I don’t know why that fact charms me so much, but it does.

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Posted: 11 September 2018 03:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’ve surveyed some news outlets in my country (Australia).

They do not capitalise rugby, rugby union, rugby league, soccer.

Association football is not a commonly used phrase, but certainly where it appears, it is not capitalised.

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Posted: 11 September 2018 04:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Soccer is a strictly public-school (i.e. upper-class) slang term, which would mark the user as a ‘posh git’, and certainly no football fan.

Matt Busby called his autobiography Soccer at the Top, Jimmy Hill called his Striking for Soccer, and John Charles called his King of Soccer.  Were they all posh gits, or is being a player/manager different from being a fan, entitling you to use of the word?

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Posted: 11 September 2018 04:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Stefan Szymanski wrote an interesting paper on the subject which is linked here (where you can also watch a short video of him discussing it).

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Posted: 11 September 2018 05:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Context:  My first book is in editing and scheduled for release next March.  (Shameless self-promotion:  “Strike Four:  The Evolution of Baseball") So naturally I am contemplating a second book, this time on why Americans play (American) football while most of the world plays soccer.  I am working on the basis of this having a larger commercial appeal than the first one, and also a potential international market.  So I am putting thought into the best vocabulary to use, such than various editions don’t need to be rewritten.  Hence my avoidance of “soccer,” as tendentious to some audiences, and of “gridiron,” as inscrutable to Americans.  (We sometimes refer to the field as “the gridiron” but we don’t call the game “gridiron.") My goal is to use as neutral vocabulary as possible. 

My plan so far is to use the bare “football” three ways:  in reference to the game prior to the formation of the Football Association in 1863; generically, in reference to the various codes collectively; and referring to a specific code only when the context makes clear which is meant.  (And direct quotations, of course.) So what to call the individual codes?  “American football” and “Canadian football” present no problems.  (Also “Australian football” and “Gaelic football,” to the extent that they enter the discussion.) “Association football” is not ideal, as it sounds bureaucratic, but is the least bad option I can think of.  “Rugby” and/or “rugby football” are straightforward, apart from the capitalization issue.  My general intuition is that “Rugby football” calls for capitalization, as deriving from a proper noun, but I wondered if this is idiomatic.

I am starting writing in media res with chapter 7, on the split between American football from rugby.  This occurred in the late 1870s and early 1880s, so Rugby Union versus Rugby League doesn’t enter in.  That will be addressed in chapter 4, on why in Britain association football grew more popular than rugby.  This was not a foregone conclusion.  An observer in the 1870s might have predicted the reverse.

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Posted: 11 September 2018 05:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Richard, please remind us when the baseball book comes out in March. I’d very much like to read it. (And shameless plugs for books written by the regulars here--regardless of the subject--are an exception to the no commercial posts rule.)

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Posted: 11 September 2018 05:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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@languagehat:  Szymanski, with a co-author, expanded this into a book:  https://www.amazon.com/Its-Football-Soccer-Vice-Versa-ebook/dp/B07C9DJFKD/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1536670985&sr=8-1&keywords=it's+football+not+soccer. It is self-published and a bit light and frothy, but worth reading if you are interested in the subject.  Like so many self-published books it probably would have benefited from the traditional editorial process, and it clearly is in the category of “academics writing a book for fun.” I am often skeptical of academics writing a book for run, as often all standards collapse, but this did not happen here.  And it’s four bucks as an ebook, and six for the (print on demand, I assume) paper edition.

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Posted: 11 September 2018 08:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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If I were you, I’d reconsider my aversion to “soccer.” “Association football” is just ridiculous if used more than a few times, and “football” by itself is hopelessly ambiguous.  You can say in your preface/intro that you understand a lot of people don’t like “soccer,” but [insert explanation I just provided].  You really, really don’t want to be writing “Association football” a dozen times a page.

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Posted: 11 September 2018 12:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Or you could split the difference. Use football as the default term for the international game, but to avoid confusion use soccer when comparing the different games or in close proximity to references to American football, etc. And you definitely should include a preface that explains your use of the terms, regardless of what you finally decide.

Whatever you decide, readers (even American ones) are quickly going to pick up on whatever convention you decide upon, so long as you’re consistent in its application.

And I agree, don’t call a soccer pitch a gridiron. It will just confuse people as to which game is being referred to.

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Posted: 12 September 2018 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Matt Busby called his autobiography Soccer at the Top, Jimmy Hill called his Striking for Soccer, and John Charles called his King of Soccer.  Were they all posh gits, or is being a player/manager different from being a fan, entitling you to use of the word?

That really did surprise me. Soccer is of course blatantly upper-class in its origin, being (like rugger and footer) an example of the Oxford “-er” coined in the 1880s. And in my lifetime (born 1956 in London, have lived in London, the SE Midlands, and Kent) it has always been so. If you speak of ‘soccer’ to a Chelsea or Spurs fan (or ‘rugger’ in Northampton or Leicester) you will be labelling yourself clearly as a public-school type, or a wannabe one.

It’s surely relevant that Busby’s book was published in 193, Hill’’s in 1961, and Charles’s way back in 1957. In those days publishing in Britain was still a trade dominated by gentlemen educated at public schools and the older universities; maybe the publishers chose a word that came naturally to them? (I did go looking for actual quotes about the game by Matt Busby and found he used football every time.)

In the process I bumped into this paper by Stefan Szymanski, an American economics professor specialising in sport management, who reckons that the use of soccer in print in Britain rose steeply after WWII, peaking between 1960 and 1980 and thereafter dropping sharply. He ascribes the post-war increase to an increased acceptability of informal language in print, which I wouldn’t disagree with, and the subsequent decline to anti-American feeling (or at best British people’s desire to differentiate themselves from Americans), with which I would. Relatively few working-class British people know or care how many Americans play the round-ball game or what they call it, but they are extremely intolerant of ‘toff language’, and in the last few decades well-bred young persons wanting to get on in journalism or the media generally have been diligently adopting Mockney accents and learning to say ‘toilet’, ‘pardon’ and ‘movie’. Szymanski is aware of the word soccer‘s upper-class origin, but if he realises that it is still a class marker in British English or that British journalism has become deliberately less posh in tone, he certainly doesn’t say so.

[ Edited: 12 September 2018 02:27 PM by Syntinen Laulu ]
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Posted: 12 September 2018 12:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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In the process I bumped into this paper by Stefan Szymanski, an American economics professor specialising in sport management, who reckons that the use of soccer in print in Britain rose steeply after WWII, peaking between 1960 and 1980 and thereafter dropping sharply.

Szymanski is the one cited by Languagehat and Richard earlier. He teaches in America, but going by his accent he is British.

But Google Ngrams would disagree with his characterization, at least for print sources (which is what Google measures). That shows a steady increase in the use of soccer in British English since WWII, with no appreciable declines.

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Posted: 13 September 2018 05:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Dave Wilton - 12 September 2018 12:38 PM

But Google Ngrams would disagree with his characterization, at least for print sources (which is what Google measures). That shows a steady increase in the use of soccer in British English since WWII, with no appreciable declines.

Very interesting.  I have taken the discussion around “soccer” at face value.  Have I been misled?  Is this the equivalent of a letter to the editor complaining about a grammar peeve?  This supports the suggestion that I reconsider my “soccer” avoidance.  My goal is to minimize distraction from what I am actually writing about.  If “soccer” is only a distraction to the occasional crank, I can live with that.

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Posted: 14 September 2018 12:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Is the material in a semi-OT thread semi-OTic?

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