Goals galore but no parrots: a hundred-word football vocabulary
Fabio Capello, the Italian-born England football manager, was recently reported as saying that he could manage his players with just one hundred words of English. At the time there was much speculation as to which hundred words he would need to achieve this, and the BBC contacted Oxford Dictionaries for a list of the 100 most common English words, which we duly provided, based on data from the wonderful two-billion-word Oxford English Corpus.
A general purpose hundred-word English vocabulary like this wouldn’t fit the bill for the England manager, though. For a start, it doesn’t contain enough football-specific terms: if Capello stuck to these most common words, he’d not have any way, apart from gesturing, to express the fact that he was sick as a parrot … A wag might even point out that, given Wayne Rooney’s recent brush with the Football Association, Fabio might instead be better served by a hundred-word list consisting entirely of expletives.
Joking aside, Oxford Dictionaries would like to offer the England manager our list of the hundred most frequently used words in football, based on some clever analysis of the Oxford English Corpus. The OEC contains over two billion words of English text categorized, among other things, by subject and source. To generate a footballing vocabulary we compared the text in the soccer category with that in the rest of the corpus and calculated the relative frequency of each word in both. Those words which appeared the most in the soccer text when compared to the rest of the corpus were selected, and from those we compiled our list of the hundred most-used football-related terms.
The clickable word cloud above shows these words with their popularity reflected in text size, and we’ve also categorized them in the tables below. Still no parrots though – could you manage a football team given just this vocabulary?