Soccer and Football

Hello and welcome to another week of devious deception and mischievous misinformation here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question submitted by the tremendously terrific Tohrinha. This towering personage asked:

Why is football called soccer in the US?

This is an excellent question which cuts to the core of how sports works. As everyone knows, each sport is named for the most important component of that sport: basketball is named for the quintessential baskets, baseball is named for the imperative bases, lacrosse is named for the net-topped extra-large crucifixes which are key to the game.

Some sports, though, are more difficult to pin down as to their most important element. The sport known in the United States as soccer and elsewhere as football is one such sport. Most people agree that the one part of the sport that absolutely cannot be done without is human feet. Without a net, people can still designate certain lines as constituting a goal. Without a field, they can play the game in any old room or road or event hall. Without a ball, they can kick around a human skull or tin can or wad of crunched-up papers. But without feet, how can they run? How can they kick?

Hence the name football: the sport which must be played with feet. But here controversy rears its ugly head, in the form of safety concerns. Can we really, the American sports-linguistics experts want to know, play this sport barefoot? Surely one would sustain horrific injuries: skin scratched and scraped, soles lacerated, toes stubbed and sprained and broken. No, the safety-conscious Americans declare, it would be unconscionable to play this sport as though feet alone were all one needed. The feet need protection.

They considered such names as cleatball, or shoeball, but these were ultimately rejected, on a simple basis: the shoes are not necessary. One could protect one’s foot with a slipper, or a sandal, just as effectively – or with a sock. Thus was their version of the sport named: after the bare minimum of foot protection needed to enable one to safely play the game. Socker, also known as soccer.

Ultimately, the dispute is one of safety: does the possibility of playing only with serious injury constitute real possibility? Or is something else needed? And these different outlooks on safety lead to diverging traditions of sports-linguistics.


Disclaimer: the above post contains falsehoods. It is disrespectful to play sports with a human skull instead of a ball.


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