The politics of ‘football’

Ken writes:

Another cool thing thing about living in Ireland from a Kiwi perspective, or rather the perspective of a Kiwi who spent a while in the UK, is that the Irish also use the word ‘soccer’ for association football. It was a bit dreary pigeon-holing myself in the UK everytime I neglected to call it ‘football’. Here ‘football’ means Gaelic football (on television and in print anyway).

New Zealanders, being naturally very precise people, use the terms ‘soccer’, ‘rugby’, and ‘league’ to refer to association football, rugby football union and rugby football league.

Some people try to brow-beat me with the following consideration. Only soccer deserves the name ‘football’ because only in soccer is the use of your hands forbidden. This objection has a point when you compare soccer to the extant alternatives to it, but there are plenty of merely possible games that have different rules from soccer and are consequently different from soccer but which also forbid the use of hands. So soccer must be called soccer to distinguish it from them.

Of course that is a mere philosopher’s objection. Here’s a better reason to reject the bullying: ‘Football’ is a name not a description. The fact that it contains the word ‘foot’ as a component is an accident of etymology. Coca cola is no longer made with coca leaves ( I don’t know if it contains the kola nut –apparently ‘Red Bull cola’ is made with both these ingredients!), but it would be absurd to say coca cola is not coca cola. It’s just as absurd to say Gaelic football is not football, or American football etc.

Trust me, I’m a philosopher.

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