Sunday, June 17, 2018

We Love Football and so does the English Language


Seeing as the World Cup is a major obsession for people of all nations and all ages, it's a good time as ever to refresh or learn a few football (or soccer, if some of you prefer) phrases used idiomatically in everyday speech in English.


Not all of the following phrases originate from football but since most have to do with the little round ball used in cuju by the Chinese or episkyros by the Greeks (both of which FIFA recognizes as forerunners to today's much beloved sport) or words related to it, they were included in the list.


  • get the ball rolling / kick-start something: get something underway, start it
    • It's 5 o'clock -- we're half an hour behind schedule. Come on, everyone, let's get the ball rolling. 
    • The government took drastic measures in order to kick-start sales and improve revenue. 
  • get a kick out of something: enjoy something tremendously
    • I get a kick out of watching Brazil play in the World Cup.
  • at this stage in the game: at this point in time (of a process or situation)
    •  Saying you're sorry at this stage of the game after all you've put me through, is a little late, don't you think?
  • keep an/one's eye on the ball: stay focused on something
    • It's difficult to study for exams when it's warm and sunny outside, but you've got to keep your eye on the ball and graduate with flying colors.
  • take your eye off the ball:be distracted and lose your concentration, no longer be focused on something
    • All your hard work will be for nothing if you take your eye off the ball at this stage of the game.
  • it's a whole new ball game: said when a situation is completely different from what is expected
    • I expected that moving to a foreign country to study would be difficult, but this is a whole new ball game I'm experiencing at the moment. I don't think I can manage.
  • kick something off: start something
    • What time does the party kick off tomorrow evening, Jason?
  • blow the competition away: completely destroy or get rid of your opponents

    • The new software program Microproft is bringing out is sure to blow the competition away.
  • watch from the sidelines: be a bystander and not a participant in an activity, event, situation
    • Elaine is person who likes to take charge and hates watching from the sidelines, so when her teacher told her to let her project partner present their paper, she was more than just disappointed.
  • be on the ball: be quick to understand and react to what is happening
    • Get a good night's sleep because tomorrow you'll need to be on the ball at the conference.
  • kick someone around: treat someone in a mean, unfair, disrespectful way
    • It's not fair to kick your little brother around because he's three years younger than you. Be nice to him for a change!
  • be off one's game: not be able to perform as well as usual
    • Ever since his pet dog died, Mike has been off his game at school.
  • to level the playing field:make a competitive situation and conditions fair for everyone involved
    • The judges decided to level the playing field by changing the rules of the short story competition.
  • take sides: support a person, argument, opinion over another 
    • When writing a for-and-against or pros and cons essay, you shouldn't take sides before you reach your concluding paragraph. Discuss both views objectively.
  • be in a league of one's own: be better than anyone else who is a competitor, excel the closest contender
    • I've seen good basketball players, but your son is in a league of his own. I've never seen such a talented 15-year-old!
  • be out of one's league: be too good, too expensive, too good-looking, etc. for someone
    • On the salary you're getting, buying a house in that posh neighborhood is out of your league.
  • political football: an issue that causes an argument between political parties trying to gain advantage over the other
    • All politicians, in my view, use serious issues as political footballs to win voters over, then conveniently forget about those issues. 
  • blow the whistle on someone: tell people publicly or the authorities about something illegal or harmful that someone else is doing 
    • Wikileaks is a non-profit organization that blows the whistle on agencies, governments, and prominent individuals. 
  • be/stay ahead of the game: learn something before others do or be better prepared than your competitors (by knowing the most recent developments)
    • If you want to stay ahead of the game, you need to start reviewing for final exams this week, otherwise you'll never have time to cover all the material.
  • settle the score with someone: take revenge, get even, harm someone for harm that they did to you
    • After having played a practical joke on his sister, Jack expected her to find an equally creative way to settle the score with him, and was therefore on his guard.
  • throw a game: lose a game on purpose
    • The manager of the opposing team approached the young player and offered to pay him a hefty sum if he agreed to throw next week's game. 
  • be a game changer: something that affects the result of a situation entirely
    • Broadcasting the new advertisement during the final of the World Cup might be a game changer for our company.
  • a game plan: plan for achieving success
    • Dana had just completed the manuscript of his novel and now all he had to do was devise a game plan how to get it published.
  • make the cut: meet the requirements in a selection process and be chosen from a group of candidates
    • John Smith seemed like a good candidate for the job, but he didn't have the necessary experience to make the cut and get shortlisted.
  • keep score: keep track of the number of times something has happened 
    • She's been telling me that we'd go out to see a movie three weeks now, but she called to cancel again today. This must be the fifth time she has postponed our outing, but who's counting?
  • end of the ball game: the end of everything
    • We took the car to get to the concert 200 kilometers away, but when it broke down halfway, we knew it was the end of the ball game. That's money down the drain!

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