“Football” | Etymosemanticology


Football. Has there ever been a more heated
disagreement about what a word refers to? Personally, I call this football and this
soccer, as do most people in the US, even those who, like myself, care more about this
than this. Meanwhile, to people from elsewhere in the world, football more often refers to
this and there just isn’t a word for this because no one cares about this.
And that’s not the only point of confusion, because it turns out there are lodes of games
that people call “football,” and generally the word refers to whichever is most popular
in your particular region. In addition to American Football and Association Football,
there’s Gaelic Football, Canadian Football, Australian Football, and two different versions
of rugby that are all frequently just called “football.” Why do all of these different
sports have the same name? Well, basically because they all originally
started out as variations of the same game. Let’s go back a little bit, to the middle
ages. Despite the fact that some people claim that this has more of a right to the the word
“football” than this because you use your feet more, it actually looks like originally
these games were called football because they were played on foot, as opposed to the games
of the aristocrats, which were played on horseback, like polo.
We don’t know much about these early forms of football, besides that they were incredibly
violent and often destroyed property because they were played in the streets of cities
a lot, with opposite edges of town serving as the goals. The earliest version we have
any specifics about is Cambridge rules football, a set of rules created by Cambridge as a compromise
between all of the local rules of different universities. It was pretty similar to modern,
um, ok for the rest of this video, to avoid confusion, I’m going to call this soccer,
this rugby, this, I dunno, let’s go with “hand egg,” and all of them football.
Cool? Ok, so Cambridge’s rules were pretty similar to modern soccer, with only a few
differences, for instance, you were aloud to catch the ball with your hands, but you
couldn’t run with it and had to immediately kick it or put it on the ground. This game
eventually evolved Association Football, which was shortened to “assoc.” which became
“socca,” which became “soccer.” However, a different type of game was played
in the city of Rugby in central England. According to legend, this version started when this
one guy just picked up the soccer ball and started running forward with it. This is probably
a myth, sense there’s evidence that there were versions of this game played with your
hands that go all the way back to the middle ages, but at any rate this version was most
popular in the city of Rugby, so that’s what people started calling it.
Meanwhile, in America, rugby had spread to Harvard, but they changed the rules so that
you put the ball into play differently. In rugby they have this thing called a scrum,
where you put the ball between this big mass of players and then they just kinda of push
each other and wrestle over it. At Harvard, they substituted this with scrimmage, where
the ball was awarded to one team who would then pass it to a player behind them. This
allowed one team to keep the ball for too long, though, so after a few really boring
games the decided that if you didn’t gain five yards or loose ten in a four plays, the
other team gets the ball. This made it really useful to mark the field with a grid, so this
version became known as gridiron football, further subdivided into American football
and Canadian football. Today, there are lots of different variations
which are popular in different regions. Australia has a version which is played on an oval-shaped
field and, from what little I know about seems half-way between soccer and rugby. Ireland
has a version influenced by traditional Irish ball games called Gaelic Football which looks
kinda two thirds soccer, one third rugby. Frankly, all of the rules for anything besides
soccer just confuse me. Anyway, if there’s anything to take away from this video it’s
that the word “football” is and has always been confusing and ambiguous, and if the context
doesn’t make it clear which version you’re talking about then you should expect to have
to specify. I for one, promise to start calling this hand egg in ambiguous situation if people
outside of the US start calling this “soccer” when it’s unclear. Do you have a specific word or group of words
that have interesting histories? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you next time.

100 thoughts on ““Football” | Etymosemanticology

  1. to me it seems more logic to say this:

    "soccer"–> football
    "Hand-egg"–> American Football
    Rugby stays Rugby
    ??? Football stays ??? Football

  2. Talking about sports with Europeans as an Australian can be confusing because football can mean either rugby or soccer in Australia depending on the person and we also have a game called handball which is entirely different from what Europeans consider handball.

  3. Actually in Ireland everyone just says Gaelic because saying Gaelic football is not necessary
    Soccer is called football and American football is American football and rugby is rugby

  4. I know for when I was learning Russian in class Soccer was Football (I'm not translating because they were pretty much the same, just with Russian pronunciation) and Football was American Football. I've always guessed that that is what Europoean's call "Hand Egg."

  5. In NZ, we never use the word football, it's just too ambiguous. The only people who do are British wannabe soccer coaches:

    "Rugby" = Rugby Union
    "League" = Rugby League
    "Touch" = Touch Rugby (League with less contact for younger players)
    "Soccer" = British/European Football (which is also popular for younger players)
    "Gridiron" = American Football (which we never actually play but we see in movies and would never call "football" either)
    "Aussie Rules" = … take a guess Sherlock.

    Simple, we never use the word "football", no confusion ever. NZ may be a special case though because so many Kiwi's are obsessed with these that they'll assume any Sports conversation is about Rugby unless otherwise specified. They'll often comment on the "game" the other day or a particular team (even players) and just assume you care as much as they do. It's basically a national religion here. Trust me, it gets about as fun as talking about the weather, pretty quickly.

  6. Just in case xidnaf or anyone else is interested, in a rugby union scrum, you win the scrum if the ball ends up under the feet of your team and then another person on your team picks it up and either runs with it or passes it. A team gets the ball under their feet either by having a player stick his foot up and hook the ball back or by just the whole team pushing forward until the ball is over their feet.

  7. It always bothers me how people from the US describe both universities and colleges as college, while those are usually pretty distinct things elsewhere. We usually shorten university to uni, but college is usually a community college, or a place where the highest degree you get is a diploma, not a BA

  8. This problem gets resolved in different languages by just calling egg hand-football and soccer as the native translation to football. This makes it the same meaning without the confusion that is associated with the two

  9. some places just call it american football. i remember my french teacher telling me "football" corresponds to "Foot Americain", which literally translates to "American Football"

  10. When American football was made the ball was actually ball shaped but they changed the shape so you could throw it

  11. Rugby is the best. US football is suprisingly fun to play but one team keeps the ball for donkeys years. Soccerfootball is fun but in the UK we have this dumb ass culture where idiots turn it into their lives and dont give a shit about their kids or partners or work or politics as long as they can get piss drunk and fight over which team really won the football game.

  12. Don't use the word soccer

    The reason it's disliked in England is it was originally a derogatory slur, an insult.

    Rugby is/was played by posh people and football by poorer people. The posh people started calling it soccer as a slur against the sport of poor people

    Today this reason might no be widely remembered, but the word soccer makes English people flinch and uncomfortable. Call it Association Football or football.

    American football, Canadian football, ozzy rules, Gaelic. Rugby union, rugby league, football- not confusing

    If Americans want the word football and not the word "American" at the front they should get other countries playing it

    The game which is played all over the world is football

  13. In South Korea, (Or I guess at least me) says these sports by
    Soccer – 축구 (pronounced chuk-gu)
    (Which is made of chinese letters meaning "kick" and "ball")
    American Football, Rugby – 풋볼, 럭비
    (Which is just using the english word. Actually i find there is some ambiguity on the term "풋볼", here too.)
    But interestingly there is a game named "족구" (pronounced jok-gu) which is a game like playing volleyball only using foot. It's interesting because it is a word made by chinese letters meaning "foot" and "ball". However, In chinese this exact same letters mean soccer.

  14. Isn't American football called gridiron? That's what we call it in Australia?

    edit Well there you go. I should have watched first but I feel like keeping this up anyway.

  15. The vast majority of the English speaking world calls association football ‘soccer’, so deal with it, England. Anyway, Australian rules football was the first type of existing football whose rules were written down, so surely it gets first dibs on the name.

  16. well, in Poland, we call "soccer" by the name "piłka nożna" – meaning "foot-ish ball", simply "piłka" (ball) or futbol

    rugby is rugby

    and american football is

    you see, actually is not

  17. Football because that's what most people care about here, we don't need to specify it when it's much more common than soccer.

  18. Better Idea.
    Everyone says "Football" meaning soccer, and "American Football" for your handegg Game.
    You Amis could say "World Football" to soccer and "American Football" to your Hand Egg Games.
    As Long as America stays a cultural center of the Western World, this will stay a stupid issue. I and many other think that America will lose importance over the Next few decades though, so it might not be worth trying to Change those Details

  19. Aussie football/"footy" in short.

    Games divided into quarters. Ball is put into play via a ball toss like in basketball. Team has to kick the ball into opponents goal posts.

  20. I started to call American Football Soccer and Association football stays football. Just too fuck with americans.
    Despite historycal inaccuracy, most people think, that football comes from playing with the ball with your feet. So instead off whining about its inaccuracy, I accepted that as the new normal. By todays standards its easier to follow, than a lengthy explanation about middleage class-systems.

  21. Brilliant definition. A scrum is when a foul has occurred and needs both teams to take part. First you crouch then you bind then set and the scrum half of the team of the scrum places the ball in. Whoever gets the ball out practically keeps it and it goes back in to play. It is basically just to reaload

  22. 'American Football' and Soccer makes it preety clear. It's just people trying to shove their way of doing things down other people's throats that create the problem.

  23. Also, there's a compromise game played between Gaelic and Australian Football called 'International Rules Football', it used to be called 'Compromise Rules'.

  24. Think that is the best way of mediation: Neither gets football. You can get soccer and the other gets hand egg.

    And the rugby folks can still debate over which rugby ruleset is the "true" or best one.

  25. My mother language is german, so most of the people I know(including me) call soccer "Fussball(the german word for football)" and american football just football(so the english name). 🙂

  26. Gridiron is a good one, not hand-egg. Hand-egg is an insult and while Americans (and Brits, for that matter, as this is where we inherited the trait) tend to excel in self-deprecation, I'm not going to do it here because British dialect prejudice pisses me off and the "we-invented-it" BS is… BS, especially in cases like this since Brits invented the term Soccer to begin with. There are other countries besides the US and Canada that call Association Football "Soccer" too.

  27. I have doubts about the "it's called football because it's played on foot, not on horseback" idea, mainly because polo wasn't played in Britain in the middle ages, and there are no other ball game sports played on horseback. There was also a game called handball in the same era, and it's unlikely to have been called that because people played it on their hands.

  28. In German, we call Association Football "Fußball" literally "foot-ball" and American Football "Football" (a borrowing from English) 🙂

  29. Aussie Rules version is more like Rugby with a bit of Cricket & was actually started as a way to keep Cricketers🏏 fit during off season, hence they play on an Oval just like Cricket.
    If playing on the foot is why it's called Football coz games like Polo were played on horseback then Hockey🏑 should be called Football as it basically looks like Polo played on foot.
    Simple solution is, americans call Football ⚽ as soccer while calling american football🏈 as Football then the rest of the world should simply accept it as an american thing & continue calling Football⚽ as Football while start calling american football🏈 as soccer or american soccer which the americans should then accept as a non american thing.

  30. So,,, can i call yours 'cancer' its from ameri'Can' football. Soccer and Cancer that sounds cool kid.

  31. Soccer where I live is called 'Football' and American football is called 'American Football' because Americans call it 'Football'.

  32. So it was called football because it was played on foot? As opposed to what? Quidditch? Also I never knew there were that many variatons of the game.

  33. I think what irks me about soccer is that I've always heard Americans say it with your hard "errr"
    Therefore even when it gets translated into my native dialect sound as more like socca it still sounds all wrong. Luckily I have a second language to fall back on so get to call it Pel Droed (which literally translates to Ball Feet, but hey ho)

  34. In my country (Mexico) many people care about American football, and we call it either “Futbol americano” or just “americano”. And yes, “futbol” means for us “soccer”. Many Mexicans follow the NFL, college football, and even have a favourite team.

  35. The best version of football is obviously the one described in the Bernard Werber short story "Du pain et des jeux" (a reference to the Latin "panem et sanguinem") where football is played with teams of hundreds of people across multiple islands, and everything is permitted up to and including murdering or sleeping with opponent players to distract them.

  36. Am I the only American who refers to association football as "Football" and what most americans call football "American football"?

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    Xidnaf 2015~

  39. In Europe(France) if you told my 12yo self let's play soccer I'd think of PES but if you say football or just foot everyone will understand what you mean bc soccer it's a very British way of saying it while football/foot is globally known(besides USA), and i remember when i was younger people used to call American football American rugby

  40. I didn't know there is the difference between Rugby and American Football. Obviously Football means Soccer, because we don't have American version.

  41. To explain Australian rules football, colloquially AFL, Footy or Aussie Rules, the ball starts in the centre with a ruck, an umpire bounces the ball and two players jump and attempt to hit the ball to their team. Play consists of running no more than 10 paces(depending on what standard this can mean anywhere between a few steps and exactly 10 metres) with the ball, after which the ball must make contact with the ground by bouncing or touching the ball to the ground, kicked, or passed, when the ball is passed it must be punched out of the hand and not thrown
    When the ball is kicked and travels more than 15 metres or "long enough" and is caught uninterrupted (no other player touches it before the catcher) the catcher may take a free kick, it does not matter if the two players are from the same team. Points are scored when the ball passes through the posts at either end of the field, an own goal is always a "behind" or one point, unless the ball was kicked uninterrupted into the centre goals by the correct team it is a behind, if it hits the inner posts it is a behind and if it hits the outer posts then it is no score. There are rules about the ball being kicked out on the full(before touching the ground) or not,but i don't know them. Also any player within ten feet of the ball is subject to a 'shot' where another player can shove them with a shoulder, but not their hands, feet and they can't restrain them. If a player is tackled while holding the ball, and is holding the ball when their knee or elbow touches the ground the ball is turned over.
    AFL was originally invented in southern Australia as a use for cricket pitches in the off season, hence the oval fields and no standard length and width. The sport is very violent and concussions and breaks are common, that being said it's great fun
    Tl;dr Australian football is an incredibly violent cross between soccer, rugby and a brawl, it is incredibly fun to play and less fun to watch

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