In this Issue
Letters to the Editor
Write to Us
Spread the Word
Back Issues

A wish beyond words
Richard Cauldwell calls for
a novel way of teaching
listening skills

Language Interference
Borrowings and
false friends between
Russian and English

Focus on Language

Writing and pronouncing
UK version  US version

New word of the month
New words in sport

Top Tips for the CD-ROM
MED CD and functional


New word of the month
by Kerry Maxwell

silver goal noun [C]
/slv gl/
a rule in football which stipulates that the team who are leading after either the first or the second fifteen minutes of extra time are declared the winners of the match

'If a match is tied after 90 minutes in the knockout stages, the silver goal rule will apply '
(The Star, Malaysia, 10th June 2004)

'Isah Eliakwu went close to a silver goal in the first period of extra time '
(, 11th June 2004)

In recent weeks many of us will either have been glued to the TV or have been desperately seeking alternative ways to fill an evening's leisure, depending on where our football interests lie! Those of us in the former camp may have observed a new piece of football terminology: in the Euro 2004 tournament the term silver goal was adopted as a new ruling for deciding the winners of a match in the event of a tie. Under the silver goal ruling, if a match ends in a tie after 90 minutes, a further 15 minutes extra time will be played. The team who is in the lead at the end of this 15 minutes are declared the winners. If the result is still a tie or no score, a further 15 minutes are played under the same conditions. If this second 15 minutes still fails to decide the match, a penalty shootout is played.

The first use of the silver goal rule was in the 2003 UEFA cup final between Porto and Celtic, giving Porto a victorious goal just 3 minutes before the end of extra time. The silver goal ruling was initially proposed by UEFA in 2002, in response to the 1994 FIFA ruling referred to as a golden goal, which famously determined the winners of both the Euro 1996 and Euro 2000 competitions. Under the golden goal ruling, the first team to score a goal in extra time were declared the winners of the match. The principle was the same as the well-known concept of sudden death used in a variety of sporting competitions, but the term golden goal was introduced as an alternative because it was felt to have less negative connotations. The ruling itself however turned out to have rather negative consequences, putting intense pressure on the referee and not really stimulating offensive flair as intended — teams were too worried about protecting themselves from a counterattack! In an attempt to eliminate such pressures the silver goal rule would ensure that either one or both parts of extra time were played out in full.

In the event however, it seems that the term silver goal may be as short-lived as the golden goal, the International Board having decided that after Euro 2004 the rules about extra time will return to how they were before 1994, with both halves played in full and no extra scoring considerations.

Whether you love or hate football, it's nevertheless interesting to observe to what extent it and other kinds of sport offer a platform for the coining of new words and expressions. The terminology of sport appears to have remained fairly constant over the years, players and managers tending to be conservative in their use of language and concentrating more keenly on the development of the sport itself rather than new language to describe it. This makes new coinages all the more interesting, being a comparative rarity relative to the explosion of lexical activity in other subject areas such as computing and IT.

Other recent neologisms from the world of football include clogger, defined in The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) as 'a footballer who habitually fouls when tackling someone', and onion bag, defined as 'a goal net'. The word clogger allegedly derives from a transitive sense of the verb clog meaning to hinder or impede the progress of someone or something. It may also relate to the idea of 'clogs' or 'boots', as used in the phrase put the boot in (which means to kick someone when they are already on the ground). The word has even formed the basis for the name of a cartoon football team entitled Clogger FC. This cartoon strip by Bill Caldwell, a British cartoonist for The Sun newspaper, features 'the football team from hell'!

The expression onion bag presumably derives from the comparison between the net of a football goal and the string-like containers used for supermarket onions. It most often appears in reference to scoring a goal as in turns of phrase like put it in the onion bag. Among the first notable users of the expression was England footballer Michael Owen in introducing his BBC2 TV series Michael Owen's Football Skills, shown in 1999:

'Long ball to Shearer. Shearer out to Beckham. Beckham down the line and crosses to Owen. Owen shoots into the onion bag. Get in there!'
(extract from 'Owen's empty onion bag', The Guardian, 11th September 1999)

Notable for its use by commentators during the Euro 2004 tournament, another new idiomatic expression from the football pitch is the phrase chocolate wrists. This expression usually refers to a poor performance by a goalkeeper, as in e.g.: 'goals slipped through his hands like he had chocolate wrists ' The phrase presumably takes inspiration from the noun butterfingers, which is traditionally used to describe someone who drops things easily.

So what about neologisms from other kinds of sport? Tennis recently gave us the nouns Henmania and Henmaniac in reference to the zealous supporters of the British tennis player Tim Henman. These terms are only likely to exist as long as Tim remains British number one, and may well be quickly replaced by words based on a new -mania, particularly if the orthography or pronunciation of a rising star's surname lends itself as well to suffixation as the name Henman does. New terms which may be less ephemeral and are used in a range of sports include:

tonk verb used mainly in cricket, football and rugby, this word means 'to defeat an opponent heavily' as in, e.g.: England got tonked by France, and can also mean 'to hit or kick (a ball, etc.) hard'. It should be used with caution however, because the same word can be offensive in some Englishes, e.g.: in Australian English, the noun tonk is an insulting word for a homosexual.

socks-around-the-ankles adjective used in various team sports to describe a player who has put in a lot of effort during a match, particularly if the rest of the team haven't been playing their best.

smash-mouth adjective used to describe an aggressive, confrontational style of play, used mainly in football, rugby and American football

ham-and-egging noun the situation of different team members playing well at different times so that together they achieve a good result. This term was originally associated with golf, where it described team partners playing well on alternate holes, but has crossed over into other sports and even general use to describe any successful team effort. It is also sometimes used as a verb, to ham-and-egg (often with a dummy object it), as in, e.g.:

'Our focus this week wasn't on trying to beat other teams, it was just on playing well,' Ravaioli-Larkin said. 'And we did that. We kind of ham-and-egged it, with different players stepping up to help us each round.'
(, 18th March 2003)

For more information about new and topical words and phrases, read Kerry's Word of the Week articles on the MED Resource Site.