What a howler! World Cup teaches U.S. fans new lingo

Tue Jul 1, 2014 11:26am EDT
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By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN Texas (Reuters) - Fixtures have nothing to do with plumbing, kit means uniform, and clean sheet is a shutout. The World Cup in Brazil has been forcing American fans to learn a whole new sports vocabulary.

With interest in soccer at new highs in the United States, Americans face a new way of speaking about the sport due to a preponderance of British English in broadcasts, which has filtered down to local TV.

The main broadcasters of the World Cup in America, ESPN and ABC, have British commentators, while the U.S. anchors on ESPN's flagship Sports Center wrapup show use terms such as "match", "pitch" and "nil" without fear of offending local sensibilities.

Americans, well aware of the long-standing, "soccer-football" word divide, have been forced in the past few weeks to decode terms such as "boots", what players have on their feet, and "fixtures", which are the schedule.

"The matches sound better when a British guy is announcing. You can figure out what they are saying by watching," said Austin specialty sandwich merchant Lucky Sibilla.

Brilliant is a popular way in British English to describe a well-executed sports play. For example, Uruguay forward Luiz Suarez scored two brilliant goals against England before he bit an Italy defender in their next match and got a nine-match ban.

Some terms are self-explanatory. When the score goes from 1-0 to 1-1, "an equalizer that brought the match level" makes perfect sense.

When a player strikes a hard shot into the goal, and the British announcer says "What a cracker," that comment is about the quality of the kick and has nothing to do with a salted rectangle holding a slice of cheese. A "howler" is a terrible error, unless a lonely wolf enters the pitch.   Continued...

U.S. fans react during the 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match between Germany and the U.S. at a viewing party in Hermosa Beach, California June 26, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson