The team I play for has recently gained an American coach. This has been great for us, but the language barrier has sometimes proven difficult to surmount. He uses a lot of sports metaphors from basketball, baseball and American football, which often leave us stumped. This got me thinking about the translation of sports metaphors, because if there can be such great differences between UK and US English, how great must the differences between distinct languages be?
Granted, much of the difficulty in this case lies in the differences between the sports played in the UK and America – football, cricket and rugby are more popular here, and so our usual sports metaphors will relate to those sports, naturally. Though we may play a casual game of baseball on a rare sunny day, the sport isn’t televised to the same extent as it is across the pond, so the idioms haven’t stuck. The popularity of American television programmes have meant that we Brits understand some sports idioms, such as “throwing a curve ball”, but wouldn’t get the gist of some of the more technical ones. Conversely, countries that share similar sporting traditions will likely have idioms which convert well from one language to the other.
In order to ease the potential difficulties, I thought it might be fun to round up a couple of interesting sports expressions, along with their meanings. Let us know if you know any others!
Sticky wicket – a difficult situation (UK English – cricket)
Curve ball – Something that is unexpected or designed to trick or deceive (US English – baseball)
Jeter l’éponge – to quit. (Equivalent expression in English – “to throw in the towel” – boxing)
Perdre les pédales – to get mixed up. (Equivalent expression in English – “to lose one’s marbles”)