A turn of phrase

I watched the win against Bournemouth on an American TV channel with English commentators. But while I was back home in the UK, I listened to the World Cup qualifier between Scotland and Slovenia on the radio. The play announcer (as we might call him over here), said there were many Scottish ‘uniforms’ in the stands.

It was the first time I’d heard the term in Britain instead of jerseys or kits. At least I assume that’s what he meant, unless since I moved to the States the Scots have officially adopted red wigs and kilts as their designated national dress in a referendum I missed.

I’ve spent a year researching and writing a book on the 2018 World Cup commissioned by a New York publisher for an American audience, so it contains football terminology used Stateside. Like ‘soccer’, obviously. But the delineation separating British football terms from American soccer expressions is blurring.

We (in the UK) always said set pieces while they (in America) talk about set plays. We called him the manager, while they called him a coach. But both of those are now increasingly used in Britain.

We say a player has been red-carded, sent off or dismissed. In the States he has been ejected, a stronger word conjuring up images of James Bond ejector seats and fighter pilots, but maybe that’s just me.

In the NFL if an attacker moves too early he is ruled offsides, while with us he is the singular offside. There’s another: in England you have the defence and attack, in the US it’s the defense and the offense. But that has found it’s way across the Atlantic as well, and now broadcasters talk about a winger offering “an offensive threat.”

If that winger is fouled in the box then we call it a penalty kick, a penalty, a pen or a spot-kick. In the States, they call it a ‘PK’. Don’t get me started on that one.

The American phrase I find strange is when a player is described as having great ‘ball-handling’ ability. It is so counterintuitive. I get that you are handling the ball in the same sense of handling a job or handling a situation, but it doesn’t sound right to me. Maybe it’s an expression first used in the gridiron version that’s since transferred to other sports.

I suppose, or I guess if you prefer, it doesn’t really matter. Whether you are watching some decent attacking football, or some awesome offensive soccer, it all boils down to the same thing in the end.