Dear British People: Stop Making Fun of Us for Saying “Soccer,” Because You Invented the Word
We learned it from watching you, okay?? WE LEARNED IT FROM WATCHING YOU.
It’s known internationally as football, because of course it is—it’s a game where you kick a ball around with your feet. But in ‘Merica, it’s called “soccer,” and we get an endless amount of heat from the rest of the world because of it. But it’s not our fault, guys! As always, it’s England’s fault.
Not only is “soccer” a word that originated in Great Britain in the late nineteenth century, according to University of Michigan School of Kinesiology professor Stefan Szymanski, but it was actually the term most favored by upper-middle class students at elite universities. That’s right, “soccer” is posh! Which kind of explains David Beckham. HEY-O!
Anyway, the word gained traction just after World War II when it first started showing up in British publications, and between 1960 and 1980, it was used almost interchangeably with “football.” Around the same time, it also began surfacing in the United States as a way to differentiate between the sport where you actually use your feet, and the sport where only one guy occasionally uses his feet in between long stretches of dudes tackling each other to the ground—or gridiron football, as it used to be known. Man, why did we stop calling it that? “Gridiron” sounds badass as heck.
Once the U.S. really took hold of “soccer” as a term, that’s when Britain decided to drop it. “In the 1980s, you start to hear the argument that soccer is an American word, as distinct from the British football,” Szymanski said in a statement from the University of Michigan. “It is hard to think of any explanation for the decline other than the rising popularity of the word soccer in the U.S.”
See, this is why you don’t own most of the world anymore, Britain. Well, that and because it’s wrong to colonize and oppress foreign nations. (Though that never stopped us, either!) But mostly because you’re quitters. This is just like the metric system all over again. You teach everybody to measure things based on your own king’s foot size and then drop it the second something better (and French) comes along. Quitters, I say!
But the U.S. will not kowtow to the demands of—well, literally the rest of the world. As Szymanski notes, “Americans will continue to call the game soccer whatever anyone else says, not out of perversity but out of the need to distinguish it from America’s favorite game, football. […] The rest of us can continue to get mad about it if we want, but it might [be] more sensible to get over it and recognize that our favorite game can just as easily be called soccer as football.”