Print and Go Back ESPN.com: ESPNMagazine [Print without images]

Tuesday, April 17, 2001
Updated: April 27, 1:03 PM ET
Why is it called soccer?

By  
ESPN The Magazine

Jim Moorehouse, communications director, U.S. Soccer Federation: Every culture has its own term for the game, like calcio in Italy or labdarugo in Hungary. It's all Greek to me. There it's podosfairiki. Thanks. Mostly, though, the names for the game essentially translate to football. O jogo bonito! Here, the game developed in the early part of the 20th century, when gridiron football was already pretty well established. Crush 'em! Rather than having to explain the difference between the two games, it was easier to simply call it soccer. Fascinating. So why is it called soccer? David Barber, historian, Football Association, England: "Soccer" derives from "association." I thought it might. In the 19th century, there were two rival football styles: association football, or soccer, and rugby football. Gotcha. One day, around 1870, somebody asked Charles Alcock, the FA secretary, if he was going to play "rugger," a common way for public-school types to refer to rugby. Kids used to add "er" to the end of lots of words. It was a slang thing. Cheeky. Alcock said, "Not today, I'm playing soccer." Cool. So why is it called socc-er? Roy Mumme, etymologist, Florida Gulf Coast University: It's not uncommon for people to reverse sounds in words to make them easier to pronounce. It's called "metathesis." Nucular! "Association football" was often abbreviated to "assoc. football." But try saying "assoc." Ass sock. Not very nice. For some. By reversing the syllables, you get "sock ass." Sure do. That's no good either. For others. Changing the "ass" to "er" makes "soccer," which is more pleasing to the ear. But not nearly as much fun!

E-mail your question or comment to Answer Guy. And check out Answer Guy responds.