The Language of Football

by / Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The language of football has two parts – the language needed to play the game, and the language needed to talk about the game. The second part has developed because people talk about the game so much. ‘One two,’ ‘get tight’ and ‘now’ are heard on the pitch. In the TV and radio studios, they talk about ‘massive mountains’ and ‘big asks.’ On the pitch, it’s functional. Off the pitch, it’s clichéd.
On TV, they used to say a game was important if a) because it was important and b) only when it was important. Later, they changed ‘important’ to ‘big.’ Then they said it was ‘big’ even when it wasn’t. Now, they don’t say important or big, they say ‘massive.’ They mean important. They say it all the time, even when the game is not important because it is too early in the season (already massive, massive at this early stage) or too late (still massive) or irrelevant because the result won’t change anything (try telling that to those fans, for them, it’s still massive.)
Talking about football is great, you only need ‘massive.’ You don’t need to know anything about English. You don’t even need to know anything about football. Listening to someone talking about football is harder, e.g. ‘A mountain to climb’ is a very challenging situation. ‘A big ask’ used to be ‘a lot to ask,’ both of which also mean a very challenging situation also.
So next time you can’t understand the man on TV talking about football, remember, he’s not speaking English, he’s talking in clichés. Your English is not the problem, his English is the problem. It’s important to remember that. It’s massive.