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Five words you rarely hear outside of sport

John Murray

Those who follow sport will know that it is very much a language of clichés. Interviews with footballers and managers are rarely a riveting listen, and those who  give them are much derided for their repeated use of trite sayings like “take each game as it comes” and the grammatically horrific “the boys done good”. Indeed, the growth of Twitter has exposed that, while they might be stars on the field, few footballers have anything interesting to say unless you want to know about their conquests on FIFA 14 or what they’ve just had to eat in Nando’s.

Nevertheless, sport does have one or two of its own idiosyncratic words and phrases used regularly by reporters, commentators, pundits and participants, but rarely in any other fields. Here are five I can think of.

1. Bouncebackability

This term has actually made it into several dictionaries after it was popularised by the TV show Soccer AM in 2005. Believed to have first been used by the then Crystal Palace manager Iain Dowie to describe his team’s run of good results that year, the programme began a campaign to get it into the dictionary. It became a buzzword among sporting figures describing a return to form following a setback.

2. Nutmeg

To those who don’t follow sport, this will be little more than a seed used to flavour certain puddings, but fans of football, hockey or basketball will know this as a manoeuvre that makes an opponent look foolish.

To nutmeg someone is to put the ball between their legs in order to either pass to a teammate or collect it yourself. Seemingly, nobody has any idea how the term originated, but it’s so well understood in football that the practice is even often shortened to ‘megs’.

3. Brace

A ‘brace’ is a word for two of something, but have you ever heard somebody say that they enjoyed a brace of eggs for breakfast this morning, or bemoan that they had to get a brace of buses to reach work today?

Wayne Rooney, however, scored a brace during Manchester United’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, as several sources reported. Strangely, the only thing apart from goals often said to form a brace is game birds, and any hunter will proudly announce that he has just shot a brace of pheasants.

4. Remonstrate

Not an unfamiliar word in itself, but I’m struggling to remember ever hearing it outside of a football context.

Remonstrating is another thing that Mr. Rooney is fond of, besides scoring braces of goals. It means to protest forcefully, but the subjects of remonstration almost always seem to be referees, umpires and other figures of sporting authority.

5. Head

OK, you know the word ‘head’, but how often do you use it as a verb meaning to propel something with your head?

Football is the only sport I can think of in which contact of the ball with the head is a key part of the game. Any touches of the ball with the head in rugby, cricket, basketball or volleyball are likely to be accidental, not to mention painful!

Outside of sport, attacking a person or thing with the head is called a ‘head-butt’. In football, however, touching the ball with the head is simply ‘heading’.

So, who says sport is for the ignorant? That’s five words I have in my vocabulary that I might not know if sport didn’t exist.

John is every inch the wordsmith and loves a game of Scrabble above all else. With experience writing for newspapers, John’s time at university was spent studying Creative Writing – something which comes across in his love of the pun.

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