Why flowers?

“Flowers? For me? How lovely! I love flowers. Thank you so much.”

We all like flowers, don’t we? I do. I’ve received them and offered gushing thanks, and I’ve given them as symbols of affection, admiration, celebration and condolence.

I recently received a potted plant. I can’t remember why, but I can recall that I wasn’t so ecstatic about it. After all I would now have spend time and energy, not to mention expense, to care for this plant, which was not the kind I would ever have chosen. I would rather have received flowers that would wither and die in a few days

Wither and die in a few days? What was I thinking? How can withering and dying be a symbol of affection?

Dead rose

Well, for me no more. Cut flowers are dead flowers. I’m leaving them on plants. I’m not giving anyone any dead flowers anymore. And, unless specifically requested, I won’t be giving anyone any potted plants either.

Instead I’ll give chocolates, coffee, candy, fruit etc. Hang on, aren’t these dead plant material too? Oh, but this is different …

Lightning Bolt

Lightning BoltThere’s a lot going on in this photo.

Firstly the sight of two bolts: one a bolt of lightning, the other the fastest human ever, Usain Bolt.

Then there are the cameramen on the inside of the track, laden with their equipment, seemingly keeping pace with the athletes.

Quotations: FIFA

“We need a different FIFA,” he said, “More democratic, more respected, which behaves better and which does more.”

Who said it? Jerome Champagne, potential candidate for the next FIFA presidency. This was said a few days ago. In these days of soundbites and tweets these brief sentences encapsulate what is allegedly wrong with football’s governing body, FIFA.

Jerome Champagne

And frankly I agree with it. But even though the content strikes right at the heart of football’s troubles, how banal and unmemorable is this statement? Admittedly M Champagne has already received support from the most famous name in football ever, Pele, but I think his script could do with a few rhetorical tricks.

I am no professional soundbite writer, but off the top of my head, how about this:

“Do we not need a new direction? More democracy, more respect, better behaviour, and actual action.”

Quotations: Only Fools & Horses

Grandad Trotter, played by actor Lennard Pearce (1915-84), utters this soliloquy in the middle of a 1981 British comedy sitcom.

My brother George was at Passchendale. Nigh on half a million Allied troops died there, all for five miles of mud! I was at King’s Cross station when his regiment came home after the armistice. Most of them was carried off the train. I saw men with limbs missing, blind men – men who couldn’t breathe properly ‘cos their lungs had been shot to bits by mustard gas! While the nation celebrated they was hidden away in big grey buildings, far from the public gaze. I mean, courage like that could put you right off your victory dinner couldn’t it? They promised us homes fit for heroes, they give us heroes fit for homes!


However unlikely it may seem to hear such a hard-hitting speech in a comedy show, the basis of this soliloquy is not fiction. The Battle of Passchendale, was fought over six months of 1917 during World War I, and not only were there horrendous Allied casualties, there were also approximately the same number of German casualties.

The scriptwriter John Sullivan (1946-2011) certainly packs a punch, especially with the last sentence. That final line is a great example of the power of rhetoric, namely antithesis. Maybe we need a little rhetoric from time to time to make us really think.

Football or Soccer?

The perennial question, should we say football or soccer?

It’s a big yawn for most Americans: football refers to the American gridiron sport, and soccer refers to the English goalscoring sport. So for North Americans the answer is simple.

However the rest of the world, where American Football is not so popular, refers to the English goalscoring sport as football (or the equivalent in its own language). Indeed the supervising authority, FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, has the word football enshrined in its title. The word soccer is often avoided.

So that’s that. Outside of North America the English goalscoring sport is known as football, and in North America the gridiron game is known as football. And we just get on with it.

There are a number of related issues worth exploring, but in all honesty I cannot find anything to change my initial conclusion above.

What about other versions of football?

There are a huge number of football variants outside of American Football and soccer, for example rugby football, Australian Rules, Gaelic Football, but this issue tends to be centered on the American and English versions. The other variants have alternative names which they kindly use when referring to their sport outside their local community.

Is American Football really football?

American Football

In some ways it seems very strange to refer to American Football as football when the ball is elliptical (a prolate spheroid) not a sphere as are all other balls. A search through web clipart illustrates another point: the number of times the ball is touched by the foot, ie kicked, which totals about 20 or 30 per game. This would take about one minute in soccer. A typical American Football clipart above shows only one example where the ball is kicked. By comparison a typical clipart for soccer below is almost exclusively focused on kicking.

Basic RGBThe ball in American Football is usually thrown and caught and carried, and the fourth, and possibly most important element, is the tackling, not of the ball, but of the player. The title football for such a sport appears to be a misnomer, but so many things in this world have the wrong names which in time become so inextricably linked that it is practically impossible to change. This is probably one such example, no need to fuss.

How did the word soccer come about?

The original rules were drawn in London in 1863, where the full name for the English goalscoring game was designated as  Association Football. It is not clear whether the term association referred to the fact that football was a team sport, or whether it was an amalgamation of all the various sports of the time which purported to be football. But nevertheless the term association stuck.

And this is perhaps where the name soccer derived. The soc of association is possibly the origin of the word soccer. In some parts of the UK football is sometimes colloquially referred to as soccy (pronounced socky), and from here it is a short step to soccer. So soccer may well be a British term.

Personally I have no problem in using soccer as an alternative term to football. There is no stigma attached to the term soccer, and it bewilders me  when people apologize for using the term. Incidentally Australians refer to their national football team as the Socceroos, which provokes nothing but positive reaction. However I would always refer to a football player as a footballer, never a soccerer, and I would also use the adjective footballing, (as in ‘he was dropped for a footballing reason’) never soccering.

In conclusion it is the will of the people that always prevails. What I, or anyone else, may say or think has no bearing on which term is used. We just live with the fact that the term football covers both American gridiron and English soccer, and a great many other sports, which leaves us more time to appreciate the great sport of football.