Sports language. The linguistic game off the field

Today, iScribo talks about sports language using football as an example. Come and learn a little about it!

Language is like a mouldable dough; it expands, or contracts depending on the context and grows or extinguishes according to different circumstances. It is a living being and, therefore, changing. With the emergence of different professions or areas of work development, technicalities arise, a language to convey ideas regarding a specific activity. It happens in medicine, journalism, and other areas. Within journalism, there is a subbranch: sports journalism.

Sports in general and each branch of sports have linguistic references, and sports journalism refers to those that attract the most followers. Sports journalism from countries whose official language is Spanish is often criticised for the use of foreign words, but it must also be recognised that in addition to the use of Anglicisms, the language of sports journalism stands out for the originality of some of its expressions, which have transcended the vocabulary used by journalists and have been transferred to the daily lives of the population of an entire country.

When discussing sporting events, war terminology comes to the fore naturally. The military lexicon is an essential ingredient when creating metaphors for sports. There is talk of real battles, of duel or strife. It is a life-or-death encounter in which the teams dig in, rearm, and test all their artillery.

The language of football

Football, the cultural cornerstone of Spanish-speaking countries, has given rise to a linguistic vocabulary that is incredibly diverse, mirroring the vast array of cultures it represents. This lexicon, deeply embedded in the language, is a testament to the rich cultural tapestry of these nations, inviting all to explore and appreciate their unique expressions of soccer.

Football has its dictionary. Un tiro, disparo o remate al arco is a shot at goal. El tablón is the tribune where the fans of each team are located. Depending on the team they support, they are known as Culés or Colchoneros in Spain, Bosteros or Gallinas in Argentina and Uruguay, or Las Madres, Las Zorras, or Las Monjas in Chile.

The ball is known as la pelota, el cuero (the leather) or el esférico. A player lacking passion is called pecho frío (cold chest). Dar un baile (giving a dance) is winning by a wide margin. Amasar la pelota (kneading the ball) refers to whoever can dominate it. Morfón, comilón or chupón (glutton), is the one who does not pass the ball to his teammates. The fans who aguanta los trapos (put up with the rags) are those who always support their team, and gambetear or hacer una gambeta (dribbling) is the ability of a player to elude the opposing team and continue advancing with the ball. The player with these skills is a gambeteador (dribbler).

Gato (a cat) is an outstanding goalkeeper; there is also talk of an arquerazo. And a cabezazo (a headbutt) can also be testarazo. Tuercebotas (a boot twister) is how you know a terrible player.

It is said that sports language is excessively opinionated, but at the same time, this freedom has allowed him to be one of the most creative and innovative with the use of language. Poetic resources such as metaphors, comparisons and metonyms are used in sports language. In sports journalism, emotions and feelings are appealed to, which is why using exclamation points is expected. Goal, goal, goal! It could be an acceptable headline on the front page.

Is Barcelona that good? The headline seeks to challenge the reader, establish contact, and maintain a conversation.

As we have already seen, linguistic creativity is characteristic of sports language. We see it in the brief extract that we have shared here of the usual vocabulary around football and the stylistic resources that are used to create new words or expressions; in addition to these, we can mention a couple more, such as the case of the verbalisation of the noun in cases of campeonar (ganar el Campeonato: win the championship) –El atlético de Madrid logró campeonar en España– or the resource of parasynthesis, which is none other than forming words using a suffix or prefix, for example, in the case of cerocerismo. El cerocerismo vuelve a imponerse en la liga.

Sports language has been relevant in enriching other languages, even everyday languages. Do you know everyday expressions whose origin is in the sports field? Share them with us.

I have wanted to discuss the language of equestrianism, but due to a lack of space, that will have to be part of another article. You can also suggest topics that interest you.

Keep learning curiosities about the language and the Spanish language, visiting and reading the articles we publish weekly on the iScribo blog. If you are looking to improve your Spanish writing and correct a specific variant of this language, remember to subscribe to our wonderful grammar checker. We are waiting for you!

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