Archive for Football

Synesis, Metonymy and the World Cup

Posted in Football with tags , , , , , , on June 27, 2018 by telescoper

The shock defeat of Germany by South Korea this afternoon means that the world champions fail to progress from the group stage and are eliminated from the competition. In other words, Germany are out. Or should that be Germany is out?

Strictly speaking, the singular form is correct (as was Nelson with his “England expects..” message at Trafalgar) but that doesn’t mean that the English plural is necessarily wrong. This is an example of a figure of speech called a metonymic shift, whereby a thing or concept is referred to not by its own name but by the name of something associated with it. An example is found in the phrase “to boil a kettle”: obviously it is not the kettle that gets boiled, but the water within it, but this isn’t an error as such, merely a grammatical device. Metonymic shifts also take place when we refer to the Government as “Westminster” or the film-making industry as “Hollywood”.

When we come to the “Germany is ” versus “Germany are” debate, the noun “Germany” can be taken to mean “The German team” (singular) but in British English the metonymic shift takes this to mean a collection of individual players (plural), i.e. the meaning is transferred from the “German team” to the “German players”. The use of a verb indicating a singular subject constitutes “formal agreement” with “team” whereas the plural form would be “notional agreement”.

I know that this usage is regarded as incorrect by American colleagues I have discussed it with, to the extent that it actually grates on them a bit. But I think “the team are fighting amongst themselves” is a better construction than any I can think of that includes formal rather than notional agreement. Moreover this kind of construction is correct in languages with more precise grammatical rules than English.

The Greek term synesis refers to a grammatical alteration in which a word takes the gender or number not of the word with which it should regularly agree, but of some other word implied by that word, a device much used in both Greek and Roman poetry and also in rhetoric. The distinction between “the Government is united” and “the Government are divided” offers a particularly interesting example.

Related to this difference is the fact that American sports teams tend to have names that are themselves plural, e.g. the Cubs, the Dolphins, the Jets, the Broncos etc, whereas in Britain they are more often singular (though with exceptions, such as Wolverhampton Wanderers).

Anyway, here’s a quick poll to see what you think:

UPDATE: Just to prove, as if it were needed, that I don’t have a life, I had a look at the English Football League teams for the 2018/9 season, with the the following results as to how many names are plural:

Premiership: 1/20 (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Championship: 3/24 (Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Queens Park Rangers)

League One: 3/24 (Bristol Rovers, Wycombe Wanderers, Doncaster Rovers)

League Two: 3/24 (MK Dons, Forest Green Rovers, Tranmere Rovers)

In Scotland there are:

Premiership 1/12 (Rangers)

In the lower divisions there are a further four: out of thirty teams: Aidrieonians, Raith Rovers,Albion Rovers, Berwick Rangers.

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The Arithmetic of Relegation

Posted in Biographical, Sport with tags , , , on April 30, 2018 by telescoper

When I got back home after yesterday’s concert, I ate some dinner and settled down to have a look through the Sunday papers. Most of the news was as grim as expected, especially the ongoing fiasco of Brexit, and the scandal engulfing Home Secretary former Home Secretary Amber Rudd who obviously lied to Parliament on at least one occasion. Anyway, turning my attention to the Sports pages there was a write-up of Saturday’s disappointing home defeat for Newcastle United against bottom club West Bromwich Albion. I was gloomy enough to wonder whether Newcastle might actually still get relegated, so looked at the Premiership Table:

Neither West Brom (28 points) nor Stoke (30) can catch Newcastle with only two games to play, but Southampton can in principle get 41 points from here if they win all three games. It’s true that they have a worse goal difference but if Newcastle lost all their three remaining games, and Southampton won all theirs that would change. It therefore looks mathematically possible for Newcastle to be relegated.

However, I then glanced at the fixture list and found that Southampton have to play Swansea in one of their remaining matches. If Southampton win that fixture then the maximum number of points Swansea can get by the end of the competition is 39, so Newcastle can’t be relegated. If Southampton lose or it’s a draw then they can’t catch Newcastle.

I conclude, therefore, that Newcastle United are mathematically safe from relegation. Hooray!

But who will go down? I think West Brom and Stoke will probably get relegated, but I’m not sure about the third team. Huddersfield must be very nervous because their recent form has been poor and they have a very bad goal difference. The betting odds are interesting: BetFred are offering 200/1 on West Brom not being relegated and most bookies are about 8/1 on Stoke to stay up. PaddyPower are quoting 4/9 on Huddersfield and even money on Southampton to go down. If you want to bet on Brighton to get relegated your best odds are with BetVictor who are offering 50-1. Few bookies are quoting odds on West Brom to get relegated, so they obviously think that’s the likely outcome.

I expect these odds to change a lot after the next round of matches.

Sports Round-up

Posted in Cricket, Football with tags , , , , on April 15, 2018 by telescoper

Feeling a bit under the weather – and mindful that I have to get the early flight back to Cardiff tomorrow morning – I’ve been taking it easy today. I did, however, venture forth to the local pub in Maynooth (which is approximately fifty yards from my flat) after lunch to have a pint and watch the second half of Newcastle Utd against Arsenal in the Premiership League. I’m glad I did, as Newcastle won 2-1, which cheered me up considerably.

After four consecutive wins Newcastle have now got 41 points from 33 games and are in tenth place. Though relegation is still mathematically possible, that would require a very improbable sequence of results.

Even the bottom club, West Bromwich Albion, still have a chance of avoiding relegation. They even managed to beat Manchester Utd today, but it still looks most probable that they, Stoke City and Southampton will be in the Championship next year.

Manchester United’s defeat later this afternoon hands the Premiership title to their Midlands rivals Manchester City. Congratulations to City. They’ve clearly been the best team all season, a little end-of-term wobble notwithstanding.

Wolverhampton Wanderers gained promotion yesterday, but the second automatic spot is yet to be decided. Cardiff City looked to have blown it in recent matches, but had a good win yesterday against Midlands side Norwich City while a last-gasp goal from Brentford meant Fulham only drew. With a game in hand, the Bluebirds are in a strong position but you never know.

At the other end of the Championship lies Sunderland, but even they have a (remote) chance of avoiding relegation.

Anyway, as always, the last handful of matches of the football season coincides with the start of the cricket season. The County Championship started on Friday but many games were badly affected by the weather. Where play was possible, conditions favoured bowling rather than batting: Kent, for example, were bowled out for 64 in their first innings against Gloucestershire..

Glamorgan have been playing a three-day match against a Cardiff MCCU team. The students had Glamorgan in trouble at 28-3 chasing their first innings 249 but the professionals recovered to reach 217-5 at yesterday’s close. No play was possible today because of rain so the match ended in a draw.

Hopefully, when teaching and exam marking are finished in both Maynooth and Cardiff, I’ll be able to make use of my season ticket for some of Glamorgan’s matches at the SSE SWALEC Stadium in Sophia Gardens. The Welsh weather may, of course, have something to say about that!

Football Round Up

Posted in Football with tags , , , on September 17, 2017 by telescoper

Since autumn is coming, and the football season is well under way,  bringing with it that terrifying existential void that opens up on Saturdays between the end of Final Score and the start of Match Of The Day,  I thought I would just mention that, after a good win on Saturday against Stoke City,  Newcastle United are now in  4th place in the Premiership:

I’ve posted that simply to enjoy it while it lasts. I don’t think they’ll be so high at the end of the season, but they’ve recovered well, winning three consecutive games after losing their first two.

In a strange quirk of something or other, Newcastle United now find themselves immediately above the two teams to which they have lost.

Incidentally, when I was a student at Cambridge, in 1984, Chelsea finished in first place in the old Second Division, securing promotion to the First Division. Newcastle finished third that season and also got promoted. Manchester City finished fourth. How times change.

It’s a funny old game.

League Table Positions

Posted in Education, Football with tags , , , , , , , on May 26, 2015 by telescoper

Among the things I didn’t have time to blog about over a very busy Bank Holiday Weekend was the finish of the English Premiership season. I haven’t posted much about my own team, Newcastle United, this season because I haven’t been able to think of anything particularly positive to say. Since Alan Pardew quit in January to join Crystal Palace, Newcastle slumped to such an alarming extent that they went into their last game of the season (against West Ham) just two points above the drop zone. Had they lost their game, which did not seem unlikely on the basis of their recent form, and had Hull won against Manchester United, which did not seem unlikely on the grounds that Man Utd wwould finish in 4th place whatever happened in that game, then Newcastle would be relegated to the Championship. In the event, however, Newcastle won 2-0 which made them safe while Hull could only draw 0-0 which meant that Newcastle would have survived even if they had lost against West Ham. Moreover, Sunderland also lost their last game, which meant that the final Premier League Table looked like this:

Premiership_League

(courtesy of the BBC Website). The important places are 15 and 16, obviously. The natural order of things has been restored….

Another League Table came out over the Bank Holiday. This was the annual Guardian University Guide. I’m deeply sceptical of the value of these league tables, but there’s no question that they’re very important to potential students so we have to take them seriously. This year was pretty good for Sussex as far as the Guardian Table is concerned: the University of Sussex rose to 19th place overall and the two departments of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences both improved: Physics & Astronomy is back in the top 10 (at number 9, up from 11th place last year) and Mathematics rose 22 places to take 21st place. Gratifyingly, both finished well above Sunderland.

While these results are good news in themselves, at least around my neck of the woods, as they will probably lead to increased applications to Sussex from students next year, it is important to look behind the simplistic narrative of “improvements”. Since last year there have been several substantial changes to the Guardian’s methodology. The weighting given to “spend-per-student” has been reduced from 15% to 10% of the overall score and the method of calculating “value added” has excluded specific predictions based on “non-tariff” students (i.e. those without UK entry qualifications, especially A-levels). What the Guardian consistently fails to do is explain the relative size of the effect of arbitrary methodological changes on its tables compared to actual changes in, e.g., cash spent per student.

Imagine the outrage there would be if football teams were not told until the end of a Premier League season how many points would be awarded for a win….

Synesis, Metonymy and the FIFA World Cup

Posted in Football with tags , , , , , , on June 23, 2014 by telescoper

I was asleep during last night’s dramatic World Cup game between Portugal and USA which ended in a 2-2 draw thanks to an equaliser in injury time from Portugal. That’s why I found out about the result from Twitter when I woke up this morning. I was struck by the fact that virtually all comments from Americans talked about their team in the singular (e.g. “USA has drawn against Portugal”) whereas on this side of the Atlantic we almost always refer to a team in the plural (e.g. “England have lost against everyone”).

Strictly speaking, the singular form is correct (as was Nelson with his “England expects..” message at Trafalgar) but that doesn’t mean that British English is necessarily wrong. This is an example of a figure of speech called a metonymic shift, whereby a thing or concept is referred to not by its own name but by the name of something associated with it. An example is found in the phrase “to boil a kettle”: obviously it is not the kettle that gets boiled, but the water within it, but this isn’t an error as such, merely a grammatical device. Metonymic shifts also take place when we refer to the Government as “Westminster” or the film-making industry as “Hollywood”.

When we come to the “England lose” verses “England loses” debate, the noun “England” can be taken to mean “The England team” (singular) but in British English the metonymic shift takes this to mean a collection of individual players (plural), i.e. the meaning is transferred from the “England team” to the “England players”. The use of a verb indicating a singular subject constitutes “formal agreement” with “team” whereas the plural form would be “notional agreement”.

I know that this usage is regarded as incorrect by American colleagues I have discussed it with, to the extent that it actually grates on them a bit. But I think “the team are fighting amongst themselves” is a better construction than any I can think of that includes formal rather than notional agreement. Moreover this kind of construction is correct in languages with more precise grammatical rules than English. The Greek term synesis refers to a grammatical alteration in which a word takes the gender or number not of the word with which it should regularly agree, but of some other word implied by that word, a device much used in both Greek and Roman poetry and also in rhetoric. The distinction between “the Government is united” and “the Government are divided” offers a particularly interesting example.

However, having done my best to stick up for “England” as a plural, I can’t help thinking that if they ever learn how to play like a team than as a collection of individuals they might not be so strongly associated with the verb “to lose”…

Lines Composed upon the Relegation of Wigan Athletic from the Premiership

Posted in Football, Poetry with tags , , on May 15, 2013 by telescoper

So farewell, then,
Wigan Athletic.
You weren’t
Athletic enough,
Apparently.

Keith’s mum says
Wigan is not
In the Midlands.
But she’s wrong.
Obviously.

by Peter Coles (aged nearly 50).