Football terms that Americans (used to, sometimes) say that cause Brits pain

I asked folks on twitter to tell me which phrases Americans use when talking about football that cause them consternation and got quite a list. So, let this serve as a warning to all of you! Stop saying these things.

Goalie or goaltender

Out of bounds

Soccer (I almost didn’t want to include this because it causes me to cringe when I think of those World Cup commercials)

OffsideS (apparently including the s?)



Saying “x team is AT y team”. Brits prefer to say the home team first, us Americans say it the other way round

referring to the pitch as a field

using “nothing” or “zero” or “zip” instead of nil

sideline instead of touchline

ejected instead of sent off

referring to penalties as “PKs”

talking about the kit as a uniform or a jersey

defence is something that people mentioned a lot, I’m not sure what they mean

a few folks also mentioned referring to the Arsenal as a singular instead of as a plural – so that means using Arsenal is (singular) instead of Arsenal are (plural). This is interesting because I don’t think that there is a settled debate on this one. It also bothers people that Americans say that a player is “on” Arsenal instead of “at” Arsenal.

And apparently some folks say “shutout” which I can’t remember ever hearing.

Feel free to include your own in the comments!



  1. I (an American) mostly use “football” to refer to the GAA game; “American football” to refer to the NFL, and soccer to refer to the sport that Arsenal play. I will occasionally refer to soccer as football depending on the crowd (or when I’m in the UK). I find the word “footie” extremely cringe.

  2. Using the word “serve” or “service” when someone crosses the ball. Very annoying. Also, I don’t remember anyone using the term “nutmeg” back when I was going to to Highbury. I’ve no idea where that came from (anyone?) and really I’m ok with it, as it’s a lot more convenient than saying “Putting the ball through the defender’s legs” or “making the defender look like a twat”…

      1. Thanks for that Tim. Did you know that “hat trick” originates in cricket from the mid 1800’s, where a club owner presented a bowler (pitcher) with a new hat if he took 3 wickets (got 3 batsmen out) with consecutive balls (pitches) which was, and still is quite an achievement.

        1. Oof…. I know it’s just an explanation to make others understand, but calling a bowler a pitcher might just be worse than everything Tim mentioned.

          It hurts somewhere, I am just not sure where.

      2. Thanks Tim. Wonder why I never heard the expression before if it’s been around that long. Huh.

  3. A “foul called on” Arsenal means foul against Arsenal in British English, but foul by Arsenal in American English.

    1. “Foul called on” will usually require an actor so, say, Saka. That would mean Saka was fouled to me. So, you’re saying “A foul called on Saka” means Saka committed a foul? I guess I’ve heard that, now that you mention it. Never noticed it before. Nice.

      1. This. Fox WC coverage was predictably awful but in new, creative ways, like presenting “reception” stats in NFL terms.

        Also, using “fast break” to describe a counter is like nails on a chalkboard.

  4. complaining about these things is just really silly.

    nothing against the article, it’s funny to see what bugs people, but as an american who (a) has been playing the game since age 7 and is still playing 2-3 times a week >30 years later and (b) uses maybe 1/3 of these “pain-inducing” phrases, the idea that these pedantic people have any degree of ownership of the game so as to dictate proper teminology to anyone else is just absurd.

  5. I think the defence disagreement is “dee-fence” (American) versus “d-fence” (UK).

    My least favourite phrase is now “low block”. You can make boring sort of poetic – parking the bus, two banks of four, defending for their lives – but you can’t try to make it intellectual, that’s just wrong.

  6. Alley oop for an assist.

    Ok, I’ve never heard it, but don’t tell me you can’t picture it.

  7. Tim, I’m not even sure if it’s even a universal American term but I’ve seen you refer to midfielders as M’fers quite often and my brain always has to correct myself to not thinking you’re calling someone a motherf*****r in a Samuel L voice.

    Also Defence is one I agree with. Not the word, just the terminology. Saying “Saliba is good at defence” is just so intangibly wrong lol. Very hard to explain why though.

    Apart from that, I’m not that bothered, whenever I’ve been stateside and watched a game in a bar etc, it’s made me smile seeing so many Americans love the game over there as well.

    1. That’s because defence sounds military and violent. And American.

      ”Saliba is good at defending”, however, just sounds factual and game-ish.

  8. On the plus (for the US) side, Penalty Shoot Out seems to have become generally accepted world wide.

    1. Sincere question for all. I have a friend that refs locally. His son and my son played travel soccer together for a few years and he always referred to a “shoot out” as kicks from the spot, never penalty kicks. His reasoning is there is no penalty involved. Makes perfect sense to me. So finally to the question, why do people say a penalty shoot out or the game is going to penalty kicks when there are no penalties involved? Kicks from the spot seems correct, albeit more of a mouthful to say. FWIW, he teaches philosophy at a local university, so there’s that.

  9. One “vee” one absolutely does my head in. I hate it like I hate cottage cheese. I think it may have started with Taylor Twellmen, and it’s actually seeped into some of the English commentary. If I never hear that again it will still be too soon.

    1. Ohh, I definitely use that.

      A lot of the stuff you hear Americans say comes from Basketball, I believe. It’s very common in basketball to say that a player has gone “one-v-one with their defender”

      1. Grew up in the 70s with basketball as my sport, as most kids in North Carolina do. We always said “one on one,” no v involved.

  10. Now I’m well into my sixties and grew up in the UK and can remember calling football footie or soccer. As far as I was concerned they were all interchangeable.

    I have no idea why using soccer became such an offence but I have a theory. Brits are, at every level of society, snobs at heart. So there is a certain “snobbish” pleasure in being condescending to an American when they utter the word. The almost exclusive use of football among knowledgeable supporters seems to have been picked up by our friends in the US.

    And to make it even worse, I’m fine with hearing a Brit say soccer but it grates when an American says it. Like I said, snobs.

    1. I can relate, Barry. Totally off topic, but it drives me to drink to hear anyone refer to anything but smoked pork as barbecue. A grill is not a barbecue, it’s a grill. A party is not a barbecue, it’s a party or maybe a get-together. And I might smack someone if I hear them use barbecue as a verb. Good grief! Guess I’m a southern snob. oh well.

  11. Both sides are guilty of this one… using the term “pace” when referring to a burst of speed. Makes me want to throttle the commentators (though that’s not unusual, really…). “Pace” means a consistent, continuous rate of speed over time, and no, none of them have a blistering pace. They’re human beings, not freight trains (except, possibly, Adame Traore… he needs a crossing guard).

  12. The absolute worst, worse than all of the above, is when someone says to pressurize the ball. As an American who is not a fan of American football, it just reminds me of Deflategate.

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