Two Links.

1) How to speak rugby, by Simon Horobin:

In a game of rugby, each team has fifteen players; the eight forwards make up the pack or scrum (an abbreviated form of scrummage). Although a set-scrum is intended to be an orderly way of restarting play, it is often a good deal more chaotic, reflecting its roots in skirmish “an episode of irregular or unpremeditated fighting” between armies or fleets of ships. Scrums that are more informal are called mauls (from a medieval term for striking someone with a heavy weapon, originally Latin malleus “hammer”) or rucks (from a Scandinavian word for a heap or stack—related to rick “haystack”). The technical difference between the two is whether the ball is in the hand or on the ground—a distinction that can be difficult to apply when lying underneath a heap of bodies and being trampled on by studded boots.

The front row is made up of a hooker (so called because his job is to hook the ball out of the back of the scrum), supported by two props. Behind them are the second row (or locks), while the back row (originally used of a chorus line of dancers) consists of two flankers (from the term used for the outer edges of an army) and a number eight. The forwards’ job is to outshove the opponent’s pack so as to deliver the ball to the seven backs, or three-quarters: the scrum–half, fly-half, wingers, and full-back. These positions were originally termed half-backs or quarter-backs—the latter is now a key role in an American football team.

More at the link; it’s the explanations of word origins that make it worthwhile.

2) Is it ‘Forty’? Or ‘Fourty’? I have to admit I didn’t think this would be of much interest (it’s forty, duh), but I was wrong:

There is no good explanation for why forty lacks a u that its near-relation four has. Forty simply is, as American English Spelling author D.W. Cummings calls it, an “ill-formed but accepted spelling.” It is, however, also a relatively new spelling.

While the word forty dates back to the language’s earliest incarnation, it had many varied spellings over the centuries, and the current spelling forty dates only to the 16th century. The Oxford English Dictionary includes a number of spellings that predate that one. […] The logical Middle English relic fourty, hiding most of the way down that long list, lasted until the 18th century, when for reasons unknown it fell out of use. Sometimes that’s just how it goes in English.

See the link for the remarkable variety of forms: feouwerti, fuerti, fourti, vourty, faurty, fourthy… Sometimes I regret that we clamped down on such things and enforced single spellings, though that has provided me with a living.

Comments

  1. David Eddyshaw says:

    I find a similar exotic thrill in the names of American football positions.
    I have no idea at all what a linebacker may be, and have no plans to find out, but it’s a Jolly Pleasing Word.

  2. I never connected the rugby maul with the still-current meaning of the word as a Really Big Hammer, used for Bashing Things Real Hard.

    But then presumably maul meaning manhandle has the same origin, hence the aptness for rugby.

  3. J.W. Brewer says:

    Surely “linebacker” is a comparatively prosaic word when contrasted to the mysterious poetry of position names like “strong safety,” “split end,” and “long snapper”?

  4. J.W. Brewer says:

    I see the first link is written as if “rugby” unambiguously means “rugby union.” According to what I read on the internet, “In England, rugby union is widely regarded as an ‘establishment’ sport, played mostly by members of the upper and middle classes. For example, many students at public schools play rugby union. In contrast, rugby league has traditionally been seen as a working class pursuit.” What do we suppose the social-class background of a fellow writing for the OUP’s blog is likely to be?

  5. David Eddyshaw says:

    In England, rugby union is widely regarded as an ‘establishment’ sport

    Not in Wales. though.
    However, I am sure all Hatters are already familiar with the saying

    “Association football is a gentleman’s game played by thugs; Rugby football is a thug’s game played by gentlemen.”

    [I see this (more or less) attributed on the Intertubes to a Henry Blaha, of whom I have never heard. Seems spurious.]

  6. @J. W. Brewer: Even the relatively transparent name “wide receiver” frequently gets changed to the shorter (and much less clear) “wide out.” I think the opacity of the terminology to non-fans may be intentional.

  7. David Eddyshaw says:

    There is some historical reason why Welsh Rugby is Union rather than League, which somebody was trying to explain to me just the other day. I wish I’d been paying attention now.

    However, I have just discovered that Rugby League is the national sport of Papua New Guinea.

  8. David Eddyshaw says:

    the mysterious poetry of position names like “strong safety,” “split end,” and “long snapper”

    True, true. Though cricket trumps them all. It’s hard to beat “silly mid off.”

  9. I’ve never heard anyone say “set-scrum”. Maybe rucks and mauls are technically subtypes of scrum, but in ordinary usage they’re three distinct things.

    “Association football is a gentleman’s game played by thugs; Rugby football is a thug’s game played by gentlemen.”

    “…and Gaelic football is a thug’s game played by thugs”, in the version I’ve heard. Which is unfair both to the game and to the players.

  10. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    Rugby union is the ordinary sport of the Scottish borders, too, although quite a middle class thing in Edinburgh.

    But I’ve never really heard of Rugby League outside of the northwest of England – it seems to me like a pretty local thing. So yes, unspecified rugby means union to me.

  11. January First-of-May says:

    “Association football is a gentleman’s game played by thugs; Rugby football is a thug’s game played by gentlemen.”

    I wonder where would American football go in this classification…

  12. I’ve never really heard of Rugby League outside of the northwest of England

    Various parts of the British diaspora prefer League to Union. For example, in Australia League is the most popular, AFL/’Aussie Rules’ (a form of Gaelic football) is second, Union is third.

    Of the two largest cities, Sydney is split evenly between League and Union; Melbourne is almost totally AFL.

  13. @David Eddyshaw: I would normally assume that a quote attributed to somebody who was otherwise obscure was probably authentic. The canonical version of the quote is apparently:

    Rugby is a beastly game played by gentlemen. Soccer is a gentleman’s game played by beasts. Football is a beastly game played by beasts.

    By “football,” he probably meant American football, since all the references to somebody named “Henry Blaha” I can find on the Web are to Americans. For example, this World War Two American air crewman seems like a plausible originator of the quote, as an American posted in Britain during the war.

  14. Jonathan D says:

    As already said, rugby league is by far more popular than rugby union in Australia, especially north of the Barassi line. But in those areas, rugby league is simply called ‘league’, with ‘rugby’ reserved for rugby union. Using ‘rugby’ to refer to rugby league is a shibboleth for someone from the south who is then assumed to not know anything about the rugby codes. (I understand that where league is popular in the north of England, it is indeed called ‘rugby’, but that feels very strange to a Sydneysider.)

    Apart from that I don’t think there’s any sense in which union is anywhere near as popular as league in Sydney. The claim that league is more popular than Australian football (which has as much of a link to rugby as to Gaelic), throughout the country is also highly disputable.

    Edit: The geographical distribution of interest in football codes in England is probably also relevant to how unambiguous ‘rugby’ is in England/the blog writer’s context. Rugby league is more working class than union in England, but also restricted to the north, while in the south the working class football is is the Association (soc-cer) version, ‘rugby’ is union, and rugby league is simply not thought of.

  15. David Marjanović says:

    I’ve recently been taught that rugby players (no idea what kind) can be banned for an act of barbary – like, that’s the term used in the rules.

    Soccer simply assumes such things don’t happen. Of course they do.

  16. Trond Engen says:

    I’ll suggest that the relation of four and forty once was like that of five and fifty, or for that matter two and tuppence, a distinction between a long vowel in the free-standing word and a reduced vowel in the compound.

  17. John Cowan says:

    There is no good explanation for why forty lacks a u that its near-relation four has.

    My understanding (not backed up with native intuition or reference to a proper dictionary, alas) is that forty is NORTH and four is FORCE. Any native speakers of this distinction around?

    Or someone with a hard-copy AHD4 can also tell by seeing if two pronunciations are given or just one (I forget which case means which lexical set, but looking up or (NORTH) and ore (FORCE) will tell the story).

    Anyway, if that’s true it does explain the spelling.

    I have no idea at all what a linebacker may be

    Being in helpless thrall to Geek Answer Syndrome, I must tell you that they are the burly gentlemen of the defending side whose purpose, at the line of scrimmage [sic], is to leave the holder of the ball lying on the ground by bullying their way through his teammates. These in turn, also burly, try to slow them down so that he has time to send the ball elsewhere, most often by forward passes, the move that most clearly distinguishes Canadian and American rugbies from their relatives elsewhere (first made legal in 1906 as part of making the game less dangerous). Our games are certainly thug’s games played by thugs.

    There is some historical reason why Welsh Rugby is Union rather than League

    Basically three reasons:

    1) No Welsh clubs were represented at the 1895 meeting that established the Rugby League.

    2) The Welsh Oxbridge graduates who formed the bulk of rugby players from 1875 (the founding of the Welsh Rugby Union) to about 1900 saw the sense, if they were going to have any hope of beating the English, in having specialized players chosen for their skills without regard to their social class.

    3) Mine owners and other employers pushed the game on their workers as a social unifier and sponsored many teams, just as happened with baseball in America.

    Though cricket trumps them all

    Quite so, though in America the names of cricket positions seem merely risible rather than poetic.

    Aussie Rules’ (a form of Gaelic football)

    It turns out that the features they have in common are shared primitive characters rather than shared innovations, and so of no use in establishing common ancestry, as we Hattics all know. They are similar enough, however, that a compromise called international-rules football exists and is played when Aussies and Irish meet.

    Similarly, at the secondary school level compromise American/Canadian games are played using the home team’s field, which is a standard rugby pitch still in Canada but shortened to 100 yards in the U.S. The history there is that Canadian football was the original offshoot of rugby union and was modified when it spread to the U.S., but many of the modifications then spread back. The Canadians still have twelve on a side instead of the U.S. eleven, however.

  18. Any native speakers of this distinction around?

    Yes and yes, four is FORCE and forty is NORTH for me. AHD4 svv “four” and “forty” confirms this. I don’t know whether the spelling of forty was standardised to match the then-usual pronunciation, or the pronunciation was adjusted later by us holdouts to fit the spelling.

    Wells “Accents of English” Vol.1, lists 74 and 75 are NORTH and FORCE lexical sets; I diverge from these for “Borneo” and “fortress”. Wells has “shorn” in both, it’s FORCE for me.

    Many spelling patterns are particular to one lexical set, with r generally preceded in NORTH words by the vowel patterns of THOUGHT CLOTH and LOT, whereas FORCE has those of GOAT.

    “our” as in “four course mourning” is only FORCE, but “orCV” can be NORTH as in “important forty” or less often FORCE as in “portent”. The most ambiguous pattern is “orC#”.

  19. Here is a well informed, if biased, account of periodic attempts to merge the New South Wales Rugby League with the Victoria Football League

  20. AJP Crown says:

    For league and Kitchen Sink (British 1950s social realism), a big shoutout to 1963’s This Sporting Life, directed by Lindsey Anderson, who also made If, script by David Storey, produced by Karel Reisz. When they came home from the cinema, my grandmother said she didn’t like the violence* but I think my great-aunt did. I was “too young” to go (was it, possibly X-rated?) although paradoxically I was a year later actually playing rugby.

    In England lots of working-class people play & watch union, it’s just that ONLY working class people play & watch league (in the northeast). Football (soccer) is the game of choice at any English public (private) school, it’s just rare that the pupils have the chance to play it except on their own time by themselves.

    My school rugby position, wing forward, was inexplicably changed to “flanker” right after I hung up my boots. I played with several Americans who were all ruthlessly good at rugby and I suspect it was because they’d learned American football first. Nowadays grown-up rugby players are all nine-feet tall and look like gorillas. I don’t know how that works in school teams where there’d only be one or two in the whole school. If we’d had a choice between rugby and flower-arranging, I’d have taken flowers every time.

    *in the film

  21. I wonder where would American football go in this classification…

    I’ve seen “chess with meat pieces”

  22. John Cowan says:

    Many spelling patterns are particular to one lexical set, with r generally preceded in NORTH words by the vowel patterns of THOUGHT CLOTH and LOT, whereas FORCE has those of GOAT.

    Exactly what you expect, since they are descended from Middle English /ɔr/ and /or/ respectively. For me they are merged but raised to /or/.

  23. I played with several Americans who were all ruthlessly good at rugby

    Rugby Union (15-player version) was briefly an Olympic sport. 1920 “The U.S. won a shock 8–0 victory over France to earn the gold medal.” 1924 “Heavy tackling by the Americans, derived from American football, intimidated and exhausted the French, as the U.S. scored four tries in the second half to defeat the French 17–3.” [wp on US national rugby union team]

    So I think I’m right in saying the USA is the only team to win gold medals at the Olympics for Union. (Nowadays Rugby sevens is in the Olympics; I don’t count that.)

  24. “Apart from that I don’t think there’s any sense in which union is anywhere near as popular as league in Sydney. The claim that league is more popular than Australian football (which has as much of a link to rugby as to Gaelic), throughout the country is also highly disputable.”

    Agreed. There is a cultural divide in Australia between the “rugby” states (Queensland and NSW + ACT) and the AFL states (all the other states + NT). Here is a summary of the situation.

    There are 3 football codes (1) soccer (UK: football), (2) Australian rules or Aussie rules, and (3) rugby.
    The word “football” can be used to describe all 3 sports, but most Australians call (1) “soccer” despite the official body being called the Football Federation Australia, and despite the long standing practice of the SBS television station to call the sport football.

    Australian rules / Aussie rules / footy is invariably called football in the AFL (Australian Football League) states.

    In the rugby states the word football is used for rugby league (or just league) governed by the Australian Rugby League Commission. Rugby refers to rugby union governed by Rugby Australia.

    Soccer is played in all states, with all the states (minus Tasmania plus New Zealand) having a team in the national competition, the A-League. The national team is called Soceroos.

    AFL is a national competition, with all the states (minus Tasmania) having a team in the national competition. AFL has been steadily encroaching on the two rugby states over the last two decades. There is no national team – mainly because there is no one to play against. However, every couple of years or so, an Irish gaelic football team comes around to play a game with mixed rules against AFL players.

    The current league competition (National Rugby League) has teams from NSW, Qld, ACT, Victoria and New Zealand. The national team is called the Kangaroos.

    Rugby union is played in all states in sandstone universities and top private schools. But its popularity is greatest in the rugby states. The Super Rugby competition has teams from NSW, Qld, ACT, Japan, as well as New Zealand and South Africa. A team from Western Australia was controversially dropped from the competition recently, despite the high level of support from the immigrant South African population in Perth. The greatest rival to the Wallabies (Australian national team) are the All Blacks (New Zealand).

  25. John Cowan says:

    Thanks for the AHD4 link. So if the pronunciation given is ôr, it’s NORTH; if it’s ôr, ōr, it’s FORCE.

  26. Discussion of Australian football always makes me think of a 1980s Tank McNamara* Sunday strip. A family was holding an intervention for a “jock junkie,” who was addicted to watching sports. When they confronted him and asked him to turn off ESPN, his reply was, “But it’s Australian Rules Badminton! I can’t turn it off!”

    * For those unfamiliar, Tank McNamara is an American comic strip about sports topics—not the funniest thing around by any means, but, as with most strips, endowed with occasional moments of brilliance.

  27. I just learned the word scrumpox, for herpes infections of the extremities.

  28. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    Why three/thirty and five/fifty? I mean, why pick on four, when it doesn’t get regularly until sixty?

    Or at least, why pick on forty when fourteen is the true outlier – twelve/twenty, thirteen/thirty, fifteen/fifty

  29. Stu Clayton says:

    scrumpox = herpes gladiatorum in connection with rugby football.

    # Herpes gladiatorum is transmitted by direct contact with skin lesions caused by a herpes simplex virus.[1] This is the main reason why the condition is often found in wrestlers. #

  30. David Marjanović says:

    just as happened with baseball in America

    *lightbulb moment*

    I’ve seen “chess with meat pieces”

    Chess with thug pieces, then? 🙂

  31. AJP Crown says:

    The greatest rival to the Wallabies (Australian national team) are the All Blacks (New Zealand).

    My cousin was vice captain of the Wallabies during the 1980s. Just saying. I’m his superior at flower arranging.

  32. Richard Hershberger says:

    Names for positions: American football lost something wonderful when it switched from “snapper-back” to center.

  33. Richard Hershberger says:

    History of the various football codes: Football goes back to at least the Middle Ages as a folk sport. The usual version of the story is that it was adopted and civilized in the public schools in the first half of the 19th century. There is an ongoing argument about how true it is. It is certainly true that the various associations that arose in the Victorian era were led by old boys, but my sense is that there were more influences from outside than they cared to admit. In any case, football clubs arose in mid-century. The Football Association was organized in 1863, but was unable to reconcile the demands of the various clubs. It went with a kicking game, while those clubs (influenced by Rugby School’s rules) that favored a carrying game eventually, in 1871, organized the Rugby Union.

    The Association game remained unified, while Rugby spawned multiple variants. The American colleges (principally Harvard, Yale, and Princeton) adopted Rugby in 1874, and promptly started fiddling with the rules. By the early 1880s they had what is in retrospect a distinct game with most of the features we associate with American football. It took a few years for everyone to come to understand this, so you can find accounts of English footballers trying to play Americans, with wackiness ensuing. In the meantime in Canada, football clubs were going through a similar process, heavily influenced by American football.

    Rugby League comes from a split within English rugby in 1895 over the issue of professionalism. The Rugby Union was adamantly against professionals, upholding the ideal of the gentleman amateur, while many northern working class clubs had no use for the gentleman amateur ideal, but they did have use for professional players. Once the administrative split occurred, the two rules codes gradually drifted apart.

    Australian football is a distinct institution. It arose independently, from older informal football traditions.

    Gaelic football also was an independent foundation, arising in reaction to the spread of rugby in Ireland. Ireland had its own football tradition, which was codified in 1887 by the Gaelic Athletic Association. Apart from the appeal of the game itself, its not being English was a huge selling point.

  34. J.W. Brewer says:

    Rather than borrow or calque modifiers like “union” and “league,” French apparently just distinguishes between rugby à XV and rugby à XIII. Perhaps more peculiarly, it also (at least judging from wikipedia) distinguishes between rugby à VII and rugby à sept, although I expect that’s hopelessly ambiguous in speech?

  35. J.W. Brewer says:

    To Brett’s Tank McNamara point, when ESPN first launched as a 24-hours-a-day sports cable channel in the 1980’s (when I was in college) they didn’t actually have enough in-house programming to easily fill up all 168 hours of the week and they were on a tight budget. So they did things like buy (for I assume very little money because no one else was bidding for it) the American rights to show live Australian Rules games at 2 or 3 am Eastern time. Sometimes when I was in college and we were up late and a bit intoxicated we’d find one of those games while channel-surfing and watch for a while. Since ESPN had just bought access to a live feed intended for the Australian home market and wasn’t doing anything to adapt it for an American audience, the play-by-play commentators all: a) had very thick Australian accents; and b) assumed the viewers already knew the basic rules of the game, which we did not. So we would sometimes try to figure out the rules in a descriptive-linguistics-fieldwork sort of way, by observing which sorts of violent physical contact between players seemed to lead to penalties and which did not, hoping that a coherent pattern would eventually emerge from the data.

  36. AJP Crown says:

    the Gaelic Athletic Association

    There was an interesting article about the Victorian origins of Croke Park, the GAA, the IRA and Gaelic football, by Fintan O’Toole, in the Observer:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/may/08/queen-britain-croke-park-ireland

  37. Edna O’Brien was so angry about O’Toole’s criticism of In the Forest that she gave the name Fintan to an infant who was thrown to his death over a ship’s railing in one of her novels. (Via Ian Parker’s New Yorker profile of her.)

  38. “Australian football is a distinct institution. It arose independently, from older informal football traditions.”

    Aussie rules has the distinction that it was the first football code to be codified – in 1858. Tom Wills, one of the founders, attended Rugby School and Cambridge University where he became a keen sportsman.

  39. Andrew O’Hagan, who became a friend of O’Brien’s long after this period, recently gave a teasing, fictionalized rendering of her party reminiscences: “She speaks in her own prose. She’ll say, ‘A woman’s loneliness is like a tree, the roots go into the very earth, black as it is—and I was thinking that, standing at the window of No. 10 Carlyle Square, when the doorbell rang, and I opened the door, and it was Jackie Onassis, and she was wearing a beautiful scarf. I said, “That’s beautiful, Jackie!” She said, “You can have it!” Behind her was Robert Mitchum.’ ”

  40. The Irish games named by archbishop Croke in 1884 as endangered by English games were “Ball-playing, hurling, football kicking, according to Irish rules, ‘casting’, leaping in various ways, wrestling, handy-grips, top-pegging, leap-frog, rounders, tip-in-the-hat”.

    The received wisdom in Ireland is that hurling is a considered codification of an authentic game, whereas the rules of Gaelic football were whipped up quickly by averaging those of soccer and rugby. It’s easier to romanticise hurling because 1) Cúchulainn 2) it’s less widely played.

  41. J.W. Brewer says:

    To Jen in E.’s point, perhaps the number between 13 and 15 ought to be “forteen”? But since NORTH and FORCE are merged for me (and most folks I regularly hear speaking) I don’t have any intuition as to what the quality of the vowel in “fo[u]rteen” might be for those who lack the merger.

  42. I recall that in the early days of ESPN they showed a potato-digging contest. And yes, I watched it— for a while.

  43. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Just a little comment on Gaelic football. A few years ago I was in Dublin as a member of a committee to evaluate the quality of a research group. In the taxi from the airport we passed (slowly, because the road was crowded), a lot of people on their way to a Gaelic football match, rather an important one, I think, like a cup final. I was struck by the fact that the two groups of supporters were all mixed up together, with a lot of fraternizing. I asked about this later, and was told that there is never any violence between supporters of different teams.

  44. PlasticPaddy says:

    @a. C-B
    Hmm. Irish are concerned both about fights between (groups of) players on the pitch and (groups of) supporters later. There has also been intimidation of match officials. But I agree, no one finds it necessary to separate supporters or have police escorts for “away” fans (this would only be an issue when Dublin is playing and losing in Croke Park).

  45. J.W. Brewer says:

    That Athel C-B’s comment indicated that he found the lack of violence noteworthy is itself noteworthy for what it implies about baseline expectations. In North America there are occasional instances of excessive sports-fan exuberance after a championship game resulting in things being set on fire or whatnot, but the baseline of soccer-fan hooliganism and tribal violence that is common-to-normative in Europe is really quite alien.

  46. John Cowan says:

    perhaps the number between 13 and 15 ought to be “forteen”?

    AHD4 confirms that it should not: it is a FORCE word, at least in the U.S. when we still had the distinction (it was definitely still current among some people in New England and the South in the 1970s). I’m glad to have access to the AHD4 again.

  47. J.W. Brewer says:

    So thirteen and fifteen were parallel to thirty and fifty (while obviously diverging from three and five), but fourteen and forty diverged for speakers w/o the merger, w/ fourteen teaming up w/ four and forty as the outlier? Curiouser and curiouser.

  48. AJP Crown says:

    JW, I’m still reeling from the FBI having cleaned out FIFA, when even I had known for decades that it was a den of iniquity. I’ve no idea how it happened, but next stop CIA and the Eurovision Song Contest? Or should we rely on Putin for help?

  49. John Cowan says:

    I think FIDE is the next stop.

  50. AJP Crown says:

    FIDE President: Arkady Dvorkovich

    Succeeding Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Arkady Dvorkovich was Deputy Prime Minister in Dmitry Medvedev’s Cabinet. Dvorkovich’s father, Vladimir, was an international chess arbiter. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is a Russian businessman and politician. He was the President of the Republic of Kalmykia.

    I can see that.

  51. I too remember occasionally watching Australian Rules Football on ESPN back in the 1980s (at friends’ houses or in motels, since we did not have cable at home).

    And I also wanted to comment on how Jonathan D (a relative of sports superstar Jonathan E?) used “shibboleth” to indicate a term whose use signified out group membership (rather that the usual case where the shibboleth is used by the in group). I’m sure this inverted usage pattern exists, but it still sounds weird to me. The term I would normally use to denote a identifying linguistic features of a (low status) out group is “solecism”; however, “sibboleth” might be a good alternative.

  52. J.W. Brewer says:

    The sort of outside intervention necessary to save Europe from the Eurovision Song Contest might need to be akin to that of the 5th century intervention of the Huns or 13th century intervention of the Mongols. I leave it to the Europeans to evaluate for themselves whether the cure might be worse than the disease. Whether Mr. Putin would want to play up the “Eurasianist” invaders-from-the-steppes aspect of the Russian Federation’s diverse and multistranded heritage in order to achieve such a result is unclear to me.

  53. J.W. Brewer says:

    To Brett’s point, I would view “solecism” as referring more broadly to any error (including by someone who was generally in the in-group but had some sort of specific failing). Beyond that it would be diagnostic of only an out-group defined as “everyone in the world not in the in-group.” But there are lots of instances where a particular stigmatized linguistic usage is a “tell” of membership in a more specific stigmatized out-group (examples in AmEng might include blacks, Appalachian whites, and Valley Girls). Solecism seems wrong for that sort of marker; shibboleth closer but I agree still a bit off. Calling that sort of marker a “sibboleth” would be conceptually elegant and historically accurate, but I fear it might cause confusion in practice.

  54. AJP Crown says:

    Shibbolecism covers a lot of bases too.

  55. Stu Clayton says:

    How about FLUB (Forensic Lead in Utterance Behavior) ?

  56. John Cowan says:

    The AHD5 says “3. A custom or practice that betrays one as an outsider”, and Collins says “2. A custom, phrase, or use of language that acts as a test of belonging to, or as a stumbling block to becoming a member of, a particular social class, profession, etc.”

    So it’s definitely Out There.

  57. Merriam Webster gives the following definitions for solecism:

    1: an ungrammatical combination of words in a sentence
    also: a minor blunder in speech
    2: something deviating from the proper, normal, or accepted order
    3: a breach of etiquette or decorum

    I don’t think it was a conscious decision, but my settling on using the word solecism (to describe errors or deviations from the language standard that are indicative of membership in low status groups) was definitely influenced by the later senses.

    And the Mongol Horde already tried to clean up Eurovision in 1979.

  58. Yes. In a sense that Donald Trump is draining the swamp.

  59. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    In North America there are occasional instances of excessive sports-fan exuberance after a championship game resulting in things being set on fire or whatnot, but the baseline of soccer-fan hooliganism and tribal violence that is common-to-normative in Europe is really quite alien.

    Yes, I was aware of that, but Dublin is, after all, in Europe. Rugby is, I understand, a cut above soccer in that respect: soccer violence is certainly endemic, but less common for rugby.

    Back in the mists of time when I sometimes drove past the Oakland Coliseum along the Nimitz Freeway I used to be struck by the number of cars I saw leaving well before a match was finished. I was told that they didn’t want to be stuck in a queue trying to escape. I took it, however, to mean that most fans found American football as boring to watch as I did and didn’t really care how things went once it was clear who was going to win. I couldn’t imagine many soccer fans leaving when a match was still in progress.

  60. At any American sports event, there are people who leave early, to avoid the traffic. Obviously, there are a lot more when the outcome of the game is not in doubt. It may or may not be significant that baseball games (as well as football and basketball, to lesser extents) are of somewhat unpredictable lengths compared with soccer matches.

  61. “Irish are concerned both about fights between (groups of) players on the pitch and (groups of) supporters later. There has also been intimidation of match officials.”

    Professional soccer in Ireland is small potatoes and the concomitant hooliganism likewise. Does any other sport in Europe attract hooligans?

    As regards Gaelic games, player brawls are rare at high level games, less rare at local matches between neighbouring parishes, where too spectators may join in, both because they’re standing on the sideline and because they’re relayed to one of the players. My impression is that parents in America sometimes join in their child’s youth team brawls.

  62. Parents in America sometimes create youth team brawls, regardless of what the kids do.

  63. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    At any American sports event, there are people who leave early, to avoid the traffic.

    Yes, but that’s the point. It means that there are spectators who want to know who won, but are not interested in watching the play.

  64. Trond Engen says:

    Does any other sport in Europe attract hooligans?

    Ice hockey.

  65. David Marjanović says:

    Does any other sport in Europe attract hooligans?

    What other sport? There is only one sportsball. Everything other than soccer has niche audiences and attracts nerds rather than hooligans.

    Also, the big cities often have two soccer teams that have different historical class backgrounds, which translates into political parties today. In Vienna, purple is black (now turquoise, I guess) and green/white is red, and something analogous is the case in Berlin; don’t ask me about the leanings of Istanbul’s three teams. Berlin has one basketball, one handball and one ice hockey team, so for those sports this kind of rivalry can’t happen between people who run into each other in daily life.

    I couldn’t imagine many soccer fans leaving when a match was still in progress.

    Me neither, but part of the reason is that it’s not often really beyond hope that a losing team will turn things around before it’s over, or that a tie will break in the 95th of the 90 minutes. Goals are hard to score, correspondingly few, and hard to predict.

  66. David Marjanović says:

    interested in watching the play

    Soccer is called “the beautiful game”.

  67. Does any other sport in Europe attract hooligans?

    Chariot racing.

  68. David Eddyshaw says:

    Hail to the merciful Greens and Blues! Νίκα!

  69. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    two soccer teams that have different historical class backgrounds, which translates into political parties today

    How… quaint. Or possibly civilised. Is there any city football rivalry in the UK which doesn’t have its roots in a protestant/catholic divide?

    (I don’t think tories go to football matches – they might catch humanity, or something.)

  70. AJP Crown says:

    Is there any city football rivalry in the UK which doesn’t have its roots in a protestant/catholic divide?

    A myth. Spurs, Fulham, Chelsea, QPR, Crystal Palace, Arsenal: where’s your Catholics? Only west coast cities like Glasgow & Liverpool had enough Catholics to sustain religious rivalry – I might be wrong about Scotland, but even at Liverpool – Everton it’s pretty doubtful.

    In Liverpool, the phrase “crossing the Park” refers to Stanley Park, which separates the two grounds [Everton’s & Liverpool’s], which reminds me of “subway series” for Mets -Yankees World-Series games played alternately in Queens and in the Bronx. I have 2 questions: 1. Any other examples? 2. Is there a name (besides Shibboleth, see discussion above) for this kind of deliberately indirect reference to the subject? If poss. a Greek name.

  71. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Me neither, but part of the reason is that it’s not often really beyond hope that a losing team will turn things around before it’s over, or that a tie will break in the 95th of the 90 minutes. Goals are hard to score, correspondingly few, and hard to predict.

    It can happen, even in a game like rugby that typically has much higher scores than soccer. France lost 20-19 to Wales today after having dominated the match pretty well all the way through, with Wales overtaking them in the final minutes.

  72. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Is there any city football rivalry in the UK which doesn’t have its roots in a protestant/catholic divide?

    A myth. Spurs, Fulham, Chelsea, QPR, Crystal Palace, Arsenal: where’s your Catholics? Only west coast cities like Glasgow & Liverpool had enough Catholics to sustain religious rivalry – I might be wrong about Scotland, but even at Liverpool – Everton it’s pretty doubtful.

    Likewise Birmingham: I never heard that rivalry between Birmingham City and Aston had any religious basis.

  73. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    Aston Villa were apparently originally Wesleyan, which is a religious divide I’ve never come across in football before…

    You’ve missed out Hibernian, with its original motto of ‘Erin Go Bragh’, which did more or less what it said on the tin, although it’s as much a geographical divide these days. And Dundee United, more nebulously – that one’s not obviously geographical, as the grounds are about 5 minutes apart, although no doubt there are still Rules for who supports whom.

    London is always a law unto itself.

    But although city geography – and religion – no doubt have political aspects, I’m struggling to think of a division like David M describes. If you’re a different class, football is beneath you. Am I being thick?

  74. AJP Crown says:

    You’re not being thick and perhaps again it’s London being a law unto itself but watching football isn’t a class thing there, even if the players are usually from poor backgrounds (many players are from immigrant families, I think). Poorer parts of town like West Ham & Millwall may not have too many rich supporters but Spurs, Chelsea, Fulham & Arsenal certainly do (not to mention their billionaire owners). Politically, probably more are champagne socialist than Tory. A very smart, hardworking boy in my year at school subsequently made a ton of money as a QC and then set himself up in sports law so he could meet his football idols. I think he watched Chelsea every Saturday and I’m guessing he’s still middle-of-the-road Labour. Aren’t football-supporting Tories mostly like Alf Garnett? I can’t believe football violence is all caused by Lib-Dems, Greens & Labour supporters. Elton John’s pretty rich and he supports Watford, in fact I think he owns the team. Elton’s Labour.

    Doctors watch rugby. Ginger Baker played & watched polo.

  75. January First-of-May says:

    Is there a name (besides Shibboleth, see discussion above) for this kind of deliberately indirect reference to the subject? If poss. a Greek name.

    Can’t think of a Greek name offhand, but I believe that the normal fancy English word for this is “allusion”.

  76. AJP Crown: which reminds me of “subway series” for Mets -Yankees World-Series games played alternately in Queens and in the Bronx. I have 2 questions: 1. Any other examples?

    The 1989 World Series was a playoff between the American League champion Oakland Athletics and the National League champion San Francisco Giants. This Series was known as the “Bay Bridge Series,” “BART Series,” and “Battle of the Bay,” Thirty years ago almost exactly (Oct. 17, 1989) the Loma Prieta earthquake struck just minutes before the start of the third game.

    As I remember, those terms were used before the quake but not much afterwards. For one thing, the Bay Bridge was closed for quite a long while. But news coverage focussed on earthquake matters and the World Series, although it was eventually completed, did not get top billing any more.

    It was the first cross-town World Series (involving two teams from the same metropolitan area) since 1956, and only the third such series that did not involve New York City (the 1906 and 1944 World Series, which featured matchups between Chicago and St. Louis teams, were the others). [Wikipedia]

  77. AJP Crown says:

    I remember that Bay Area one now, maidhc. ‘Crossing the park’ (and ‘crossing the floor’ of the House of Commons for MPs changing parties) and ‘subway series’ are less specific about the location than ‘Bay Bridge’ or ‘BART’ (which refers to ‘subway’) are. ‘Battle of the Bay’ is in between. ‘Bridge & tunnel series’ or ‘earthquake series’ would have worked.

    Thanks, Jan1May. It’s a knowingly or coyly indirect allusion (close to a euphemism like ‘little boys’ room’) I was looking for the name of.

  78. As I remember, those terms were used before the quake but not much afterwards.

    In fact, there’s been something called the “Bay Bridge Series” every year since interleague play between the American League and National League commenced in 1997– four games between the A’s and the Giants, two at each ballpark. People no longer refer to the ’89 series as the Bay Bridge Series simply because it’s now an annual event. There are a number of similar interleague baseball matchups that take place every year between regional rivals: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interleague_play#Geographical_matchups_and_natural_rivals

  79. After the earthquake, there that World Series was mostly just known as the “earthquake series.” Coming up with clever names for it seemed inappropriate after the damage and loss of life. (Similarly, in runup to hurricane Sandy’s New York landfall, there were lots of wags coming up with “clever” names for the merger of the tropical storm with another storm system coming from inland. However, once the scale of the damage it was causing became evident, people stopped calling it things like “frankenstorm.”)

    In Major League Baseball’s interleague play, each division of the AL plays against all the teams in one division of the NL. The divisions involved rotate each year. However, each team also had a designated interleague rival, and the rivals play an additional series against each other every season. The rivals are cross-town teams, when those are available (like Mets-Yankees or Giants-Athletics); other rivalries are less natural, such as Braves-Red Sox, since they were both in Boston before 1953.

  80. I have visited the remnants of Braves Field and paid my respects. Also, I despise interleague play, though I have reluctantly come to terms with breaking the leagues into divisions.

  81. Only as I was double-checking the year the Braves left Boston did I discover that where they had played is now the Boston University football field. I really dislike the BU campus, for both architectural and personal reasons, and the stadium is part of that.

  82. John Cowan says:

    I have been referring to the UK head of government as “Badunov” (although apparently “Badenov” is canonical) for some time now, and have been reproved for trivializing the threat he represents. But I persist. “One horselaugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms.”

  83. David Marjanović says:

    Godunov x bad enough?

  84. Yup.

  85. John Cowan says:

    Yes, but with specific reference to Boris Badenov, the main opponent of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Both Badunov and Badenov are in use as Russian surnames.

  86. Apparently, Dick Dastardly’s middle name was Milhous.

  87. David Marjanović says:

    Oh – classical Cold War entertainment! A gap in my education.

    Rue Britannia.

    Apparently, Dick Dastardly’s middle name was Milhous.

    It had to be. That was inevitable.

  88. (My husband is currently glued to the screen watching England play the All Blacks so this thread comes as a bit of a relief because I feel I’m supporting England in my own small way by reading something rugby-related. Having said that, I’d rather watch our macho rugby players than our prima donna footballers.)

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