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The great divide

The great divide

The great divide - US v UK English on the sports field

Unsurprisingly perhaps, there is a minefield of problems awaiting the unwary sports translator.

Not only do we have a variety of different sports in the UK and the US, with all their related rules and regulations,  we also call identical sports by different names – soccer and football for example.

A recent BBC article highlighted some of the current phrases in use and also some of the terms now being spotted from Spanish and Italian.

According to, Italian terms have also become widespread among US football fans.

Phrases such as tacco (back pass), "catenaccio" (counter-attacking) and "autogol" (own goal) have apparently been observed among supporters.

Whether the trend will catch on with "ultras" (diehard fans) in the long term remains to be seen.

This hotchpotch of terminology, where a field or a pitch can mean the same thing or an entirely different one, a “Charlie horse” is somehow the equivalent of a “dead leg” and “apex restarts” replace “corners” is fascinating to a linguist and word collector but can pose problems for a translator looking to create a piece of text which reads well to a US native or a UK resident.

There is a great deal of difference between US and UK terminology – we are indeed divided by a common language and this is something that translators and clients need to bear in mind in many fields, not just sports. We need to check where the intended audience of a particular translation piece is located, be it UK or US or another English speaking location and make sure the final text reads right for them.

At MTT we offer a proofing service between UK and US English, particularly useful for automotive texts or marketing materials as well as those sporting commentaries.

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1 Comment(s)

8 years, 4 months ago.

Ode Laforge's reply...

We French people have the same kind of problems with the Quebeckers!
A "Bleuet", for example, is a blue little flower (not edible) here in France, whereas in Quebec it is a berry, called "Myrtille" here in France (blueberry in English).
It gets confusing - and funny! - when a Quebecker gives you a cake recipe and advises you to put "bleuets" in it !

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