Why is it called “Soccer” and why rugby is to blame.

Happy Monday!

I hope everyone had a happy and safe New Years Eve.  My new years was quite lovely.

As an American living in England, I very literally learn a new thing everyday.  I’ve learn that the English are as obsessed with bacon as America but English bacon is much better (soz America but these guys cut their bacon nice and thick), that the English have their own ways of pronouncing the alphabet (“h” is “haych” and “z” is “zed”), and they that cookies are biscuts (unless they have chocolate chips and THEN they’re “cookies”).  The list goes on(1).

One difference that I had been well aware of and understand the discrepency for but never understood how it happened was: football versus soccer.  Possibly more confusing, I’ve always wondered why we (Americans) call American football, football.

Clearly it should be called “Handegg Ball”.

Short answer: It’s ruby’s fault and ergo Americans are not to blame (this time).

Long answer: In 1863 a collation of British public schools were trying to come up with a consistent set of rules for what we now call football/soccer and the majority formed what became known as “Assocation Football” but a minority insisted on rough tackling and a different set of rules.  The leader of the minority was from a school in the city of Rugby in Warwickshire, England.  Here was the beginning of the split between football/soccer and rugby.

However I can already hear you saying: ‘Oy! This doesn’t explain anything about this “soccer” nonsense.  Sodding American is trying to blame rugby for “soccer”, bloody wanker.’ Yea, just keep your pants on(2), I’m getting there.

Several years later somewhere between 1889 – 95, “Assocation Football” got shortened to “Assoc.” which developed into “soc” or “socca” which eventaully got the “-er” added in a way to make it more casual(3) which was a common lingustic idiosyncraticy to Oxford from the school in Rugby.

So folks remember the next time you’re about to shame an American for calling football, soccer or handegg, football, stop your self and remember: Rugby is to blame for this nonsense.

Tune in Wednesday for a modern blast from the past.



  1. They don’t have hoodies or sweaters, they’re jumpers; there are no parking lots, they’re car parks; floors are flats and buildings are blocks with regard to living quarters but if it’s non residental then they’re floors and buildings (I think, to be honest I’m still a bit confused on some of the vernacular differnces here but I think I’m getting it).
  2. Just a tip for my American readers: In England, pants = underwear; trousers = pants.  I know…just go with it.
  3. In the next step of lingual evloution I suppose “-er” became “-a”, in American English, a family friendly example being “player” v “playa”.

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