One of the most well-recognised differences among British and American English is the fact that the sport – which is known as football in Great Britain – is typically called soccer in the United States. As the sport was born in England, it is often believed that soccer is an Americanism. In actual fact, the word is completely British in origin.
So why do Americans (not to mention Canadians, Australians as well as others) have a tendency to use the word than Brits are? The answer lies in how the sport evolved in each different country.
Although football-type games have been about for centuries, the sport that we know today is frequently said to have started in the last 1800s, when England’s freshly formed Football Association wrote down a collection of rules for how the game was to be played.
Linguistically inventive students at the University of Oxford – in the 1880s – started to adopt “assoccer” (association football) to describe what we know today as football. “Asoccer” was shortened to “soccer” (and was sometimes spelled “socker”). The name quickly stretched beyond the campus. However, the name “soccer” never quite became much more than a nickname in Great Britain. By the 20th century, while association football had earned the right to be known as just plain football.
What Happened In America
In the United States, in the late 19th century a sport emerged which borrowed a number of elements of both rugby as well as association football. Before long, it had proved to be more popular than either of them. In full, this sport was known as gridiron football. However, most people never bothered with including the first word.
As a result, American association-football players gradually adopted soccer in order to refer to their sport. The United States Football Association, which was formed in the 1910s as the official organising body of American soccer, switched its name to the United States Soccer Football Association in 1945. The association later dispensed with the “football” altogether. No longer just a nickname, the name ‘soccer’ had stuck.
Other Soccer-Playing Countries
Other countries where the word ‘soccer’ is common include those that, such as the United States, have rival forms of football. For instance:
- Canada has its own style of gridiron football,
- Ireland is home to Gaelic football; as well as
- Australia is mad about Australian rules football (which is drawn from rugby).
In places where football can be ambiguous, soccer is usefully precise. Other countries, which play the game, include those in Europe, Central and South America, and Africa, although has a growing influence in North America and Asia.
Association football is the most prevalent sport in the world, however there is no consensus around the world for what it is called. The chief governing body is FIFA – Fédération Internationale de Football Association – though you do not hear people calling it Association football. Usually it is soccer or football, and in non-English speaking countries, it is often some form of the word football, written phonetically (e.g., “futbol”) or a translation of the word football.