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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?

12 May 2011

Game-related words
Word Frequency
game 17060
play 16590
goal 12232
win 11357
football 9296
ball 8003
fan 6688
match 6442
score 6389
referee 3168
beat 3149
penalty 3011
midfield 2807
corner 2711
injury 2661
cross 2609
shot 2531
kick 2129
yard 2030
pitch 2027
soccer 1554
free-kick 1441
defensive 1208
header 1167
concede 961
half-time 854
substitute 768
foul 749
up front 704
equalizer 700
offside 647
scorer 613
footballing 514
substitution 498
whistle 482
volley 443
flank 423
deflect 400
hat-trick 306
kickoff 290
shoot-out 264
pundit 262
unlucky 258
six-yard 223
flair 221
linesman 220
goalkeeping 217
touchline 210
goalscoring 202
crossbar 190
finishing 189
right-hand 187
minute-by-minute 182
counterattack 181
dribble 178
League-related words
Word Frequency
club 13461
season 7861
manager 6181
league 4752
squad 3338
coach 3113
tournament 1901
qualify 1394
stadium 1294
cup 1254
relegation 1196
semifinal 1161
signing 1043
next season 908
trophy 818
fixture 737
play-off 705
quarterfinal 652
premiership 444
replay 442
relegate 438
derby 419
unbeaten 398
qualifier 369
pre-season 366
managerial 347
all season 220
knockout 214
Player-related words
Word Frequency
player 19823
team 17965
striker 3230
goalkeeper 3069
defender 2890
midfielder 1962
captain 1303
footballer 1289
shirt 914
teammate 840
winger 487
goalscorer 310
fullback 301
left-back 228
right-back 217
playmaker 190
goalie 185