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For American exceptionalists, why not 'socker' instead of soccer?

The Monitor's language columnist looks into the US term for what the rest of the world calls 'football.'

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It's all over but the shouting. Do they have Monday morning quarterbacks in soccer, too? It turns out that Paul, the prognosticating octopus in Germany, aka the psychic cephalopod, was correct in calling for Spain to win the World Cup.

Now inquiring minds want to know, why do Americans have a different name for this game than the rest of the world? And why do we spell it that way? And here's the really burning question for me: What's a double hard "c" before a front vowel doing in the middle of an English word?

It's not that I don't understand American exceptionalism. We Americans cling to miles, feet, and inches, while the rest of the world measures in metrics. We record temperatures in Fahrenheit instead of Celsius. And when we speak of the one sport whose World Cup really does engage the entire planet (as the World Series of baseball does not) we call it not football but soccer.

The idea that football should apply to several different games involving feet and a ball should seem no more unusual than the idea that house refers to several different types of dwellings, including brick row houses, brownstones, log cabins, adobes, bungalows, and yurts.

Soccer comes from "association football," the sport whose World Cup Spain has just won. It's the sport the whole world plays – except for those playing rugby, or Australian Rules football, or Canadian football.... But I digress.

Association isn't a word to make anyone's heart beat faster anyway. And that little syllable "soc" was not a lot to work with to develop a catchy nickname for a sport about to go global. How do you even pronounce "soc"? To rhyme with close (the adjective)? With gauche? A naming consultancy would have blown the whistle on that one.


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