[Full match highlights]
Everyone in the world understands football: the logic of the beautiful game is based on a few simple rules. So is – believe it or not – the logic of language.
In this post I will try to prove that if you know football …you’re more than half the way there with grammar!
Let’s start with the ball: without it, there’s no footie. In language, the ball is the verb: without it, there is no sentence.
Next come the players: each of them is tasked with a specific role. The game only makes sense if everyone, within reason, sticks to it. In sentences, the players are nouns (words that refer to creatures or things you can describe, be they concrete such as “whistle” or abstract such as “statistics”). As with players with the ball, noun positioning is critical: “John catches the net” and “the net catches John” mean very different things.
…And there’s also the bench! Pronouns are subs for nouns (e.g.: he, she, this) and work in the same way.
In footie, as in most sports, players wear different kit: the goallie wears an altogether different-coloured shirt, a defender’s boots may be designed to firmly stand the ground, while a striker’s maybe lighter and with a leather surface suitable for maximum spin. The kit of nouns and pronouns is made of prepositions (e.g.: from, to, between, in, on, at), adjectives (e.g.: long, short, strong), articles (the, a): their contribution to meaning may be as subtle as laceless shoes or as essential as goalkeeper’s gloves. Compare “Silky Diego passes the keeper” with “Prudent Diego passes to the keeper”: here, the preposition “to” makes all the difference in meaning and the adjectives (“silky”, “prudent”) help produce a consistent description of Diego’s action.
Kitted out players perform all sorts of tricks with the ball: they hit it in different ways, they spin it, they control it. The ball is the middle of the action. So is our friend the verb and it too has tricks: adverbs can enhance it (i.e.: greatly, quickly, niftily, well), reverse (i.e.: not), set it in time (i.e.: today), temper it (i.e.: almost), as in “I will not play well tomorrow!”; in some cases, prepositions help to control, or define the verb better as in “wait for” or “look after“.
Finally… What happens when the ball goes out of play? Fouls, throw-ins, corners, kick-offs, penalties… These are all (re)starts after a pause in the game. Their language equivalents are conjunctions (e.g.: and, or, but) that separate lists of nouns or sentences.
Ball, players, bench, kit, tricks, (re)starts: these are the building blocks of football. Not that many, eh? Well, duly translated, they are also the building blocks of language structure.
And this is it for the 1st half of this game. In the 2nd half I’ll build on from this to explain how bubbles in ToB are positioned on the pentagram using a logic not altogether dissimilar from the way players are organised on the pitch.