Why Does English Have More Words for Sports Officials Than Any Other Language?

The terminology for sports officials in English makes no sense and has no pattern—or if it does, it’s so riddled with holes as to be pointless…

Image’WHEN TALKING SPORTS, USING THE wrong terms—referring to a basketball game as a “match,” say, or talking about “points” in baseball—will immediately give you away as a non-aficionado, a person who doesn’t even have a grasp of the basics. But one of the oddest sets of terminology is what to call the uniformed people who make the rule decisions in the course of a sporting event. “This realm of vocabulary is one of the things that can expose you as someone who doesn’t know a ton about a sport, because it’s so unpredictable and so uneven from sport to sport,” says Seth Rosenthal, a writer, producer, and host at the sports publication SB Nation.

Mention the referees at a baseball game or the umpire at a basketball game and it’s clear you know nothing. And that’s perhaps a little unfair because the terminology for sports officials in English makes no sense and has no pattern—or if it does, it’s so riddled with holes as to be pointless. This is not the case in other languages (with one pretty major exception). In English-speaking countries sports officials have a dizzying array of names, without any kind of unifying structure as to the role each plays.

How is it that the United States, England, Australia, and other Anglophone countries have so thoroughly stumbled over what to call our sports officials? Around the world, from France to Japan to Brazil, the naming of sports officials is clear, consistent, straightforward. But in English, it’s more like a trap.…’

Via Atlas Obscura

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