more soccer broadcasts

Damien Hall D.Hall at KENT.AC.UK
Mon Jul 4 15:24:37 UTC 2011

Victor said:

'First, another reversal:

"I don't know where the two goals are going to come from, let alone one." '

This is quite common, I think.  I can remember at least one occasion where a highly-educated speaker was reviewing a paper of mine and was convinced that I had the phrases in the frame 'X, let alone Y' the wrong way around.  I think there may genuinely be two standards going around as to how to use this collocation:  one more minority than the other, certainly, but both present.

'Second, a comment from the same British commentator as above noting that a team started "on the front foot". This is the opposite of being "on the back foot", but actually the same as keeping an opponent "on the back foot".'

Again, very common, I think, especially in soccer commentary (and I watch a lot of it!  I'm in the UK and an armchair soccer fan).

'Another interesting bit from the same source is that he pronounces the "s"
in the middle of Brazilian names as "sh". In particular, I noticed this for "Costa" and "Ester"--two names where I would have never expected it. It's a bit less clear with "Cristiane" (in fact, clearly absent in the last mention I just heard) and absent between vowels (Rosana). But he does the same thing with Norwegian names (Giske, Stensland). I know the tournament is being played in Germany, but does this pronunciation make any sense?'

I don't for a minute think it's worth wondering whether it makes any linguistic sense.  There is a fairly long-running trope in British comedy about how soccer commentators (usually former players) mangle foreign pronunciations.  They seem to have a certain number of rules, variably applied, for how to pronounce foreign names (and that's as far as the distinction often goes:  there is often no distinction based on which foreign language the name comes from!).  Remember, non-English languages are not at all prevalent in UK society:  to be sure, there are up to 250 native languages spoken in non-negligibly-sized immigrant communities in various parts of the country, but non-members of those communities tend not to know anything about their languages beyond fairly racist imitations of their members' English accents.  If you aren't a member of one of those communities, you would not hear those languages in a public setting, and you would hardly ever see them written down (and, i!
 f you did, they would usually be in a non-Roman script anyway:  many of them are from the Indian subcontinent).  There's no foreign language here with anything like the exposure that Spanish has in the US.

- One of these rules about how foreign names are pronounced is certainly that /s/ is often pronounced [S] in foreign, especially before a consonant, but not only there.  People interested in soccer here are often conscious of a lot of German names, and so they may get it from there and extend it to other similar-sounding languages: that would account for the similar rule applied to Norwegian.  The rule is also often applied to Dutch, so, for example, there is the Dutch soccer player Wesley Sneijder, whose surname is /snajd@/ in Dutch, but often rendered [Snajd@] here, as Dutch names aren't as common, and people probably make an unconscious analogy with the German rendering of the name, Schneider.  The /s/ or /z/ in 'Wesley' is not fricated, because 'Wesley' is a common English-language name, and so is pronounced as such.

- I think people are often also conscious that they ought to pronounce /r/ differently from the way it is pronounced in English (and like to demonstrate the knowledge), but they aren't certain how they SHOULD pronounce it.  This is eloquently demonstrated in the sketch here, where two soccer commentators are discussing David Beckham's then-pending move to Spanish side Real Madrid:

Note also the gradual blurring of the syllables of 'Real Madrid' into one:  possibly a response to the stereotype that speakers of foreign languages speak faster than English-speakers, possibly just a result of over-emphasising the 'correctness' of the /r/ pronunciation.

During the England-Germany match at the World Cup, I actually made a tally of the ways the Germans' names were pronounced by the English commentators.  I have it on my desk now.  I'd like to do some proper research on this one of these days.

FWIW, I'm quite a soccer fan, but have never heard of Ian Darke, the commentator now working for ESPN.  That said, I have no reason to think his pronunciation of foreign names would be better or worse than that of the normal run of English commentators.


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