Friday, 1 January 2016
Friday words! The new(-to-me) word for this week concerns gendered architecture. I am writing this while sitting in my so-called man cave, a "male retreat or sanctuary in a home, such as a specially equipped garage, spare bedroom, media room, den, or basement." (Wikipedia) And what do we have for the ladies, Bob? A she shed, which is "somewhere to retreat for some solitude, to create or grow, to write or paint, or just to enjoy the view," per one definition I found and which I won't take personal responsibility for.
This term seems pretty new; the references I find for it are all from 2015, although admittedly I haven't tried too hard to antedate it. As an aside, if there's a term for when a woman uses the garage or den as a retreat, I haven't yet run across it. At our house, the analog for my man cave is my wife's "woman cave," which has parallelism but lacks the lovely alliteration of the standalone building.
For this week's unexpected etymology we turn to sports, and specifically to the sport in which a ball is kicked into a goal. In English-speaking countries outside North America, this is known as football. Indeed, it's even called fútbol in Spanish. In the US, we call it soccer. What the heck?
Two phenomena are at work here: shortening a word, and then adding -er to the end. This morphological fun actually has a name: the Oxford "-er". It's responsible for terms like rugger for Rugby [football], brekkers for breakfast, and Beckers as a nickname for the footballer David Beckham.
I guess I should note that this is a feature of British English; we don't do this (much?) in the US.
So, um … soccer? A formal name for the game is Association football, which helps distinguish it from other football-y games like Rugby football (aka rugby) and, well, American football (aka football, haha). Somehow Association was shortened to soccer, which is not only a slightly weird shortening (association > assoc > soc), but in the process it picked up a hard K sound. (An alternative early spelling was socker.) But weird or not, that's where the word came from.
A mystery to me is how this term wended its way from the playing fields of Oxford to the US, and why soccer is dominant name for the sport in North America (and nowhere else?). More research is indicated.
Like this? Read all the Friday words.
Friday words, language