The meaning of football

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Posted at 07:00 on 11 June 2010

It’s World Cup time again. For the next few weeks, a certain sport will be celebrated, broadcast, and grossly over-hyped worldwide 24 hours a day by all and sundry.

It is to this particular game that the word “football” refers. Not, as they seem to think on the other side of the Atlantic, to some pretender to the name.

This one should be a no-brainer. Since the word “football” is a combination of the words “foot” and “ball,” logically it should be used to describe the game that involves the greatest amount of direct interaction between foot and ball. Running around with a vaguely haggis-shaped object under your arm just doesn’t quite cut it somehow, unless you reject the idea that words should say what they mean and mean what they say.

Perhaps in the interests of semantic integrity, we should rename American football to something like “arm haggis.” It’s more of a mouthful, and might confuse people into thinking it’s Scottish, but even so it’s a more accurate description of their particular sport than “football.”