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Touchdown Is More Than Just a Score — Football Idioms

As was mentioned in the last post about baseball idioms, baseball is “America’s Pastime;” however, it is no longer the most popular sport in the United States. That position now belongs to football.  According to the Los Angeles Times[i], Super Bowl LI (2017) was watched by 111.3 million people in the United States.  That means almost 35% of Americans watched the annual championship of the National Football League.  With such popularity, it is perhaps not a huge surprise that Fox (Fox Broadcasting Company, an American television network that broadcasted Super Bowl LI) charged $5 million dollars for a 30-second advertisement during the broadcast. [ii]

Football’s rise to American Sporting dominance in the last half century has led to many football related English idioms being introduced into the English language.  For instance, a problem is something that is often presented as something that needs to be tackled.  Tackling is the way that a football player is brought to the ground and “tackling” a problem is a way of saying that a problem will be dealt with in a successful manner. 

However, if one does not want to address a certain situation or problem, he or she would “punt” on that issue.  A punt in football occurs when the team on offense decides to kick the ball to the other team, as they have decided that it is too risky to continue to try advancing the ball offensively. 

If a decision needs to be made collectively, the group might “huddle” to reach the best conclusion.  Football teams often huddle on the field, so that the quarterback can explain what the team will do.  About the quarterback, he is considered the most important player on the field because he guides the offensive effort.  The Washington Redskins starting quarterback, Kirk Cousins, is a very good quarterback, but the city of Washington is known for “Monday Morning Quarterbacking.”  Monday morning quarterbacking is a process where someone decides with additional information and therefore the decision has become easier to make.

A “touchdown” is the most important score in a football game as it is worth six points.  A touchdown occurs when one teams manages to get the ball into the other team’s end zone.  Incidentally, this word is also used in its most literal sense when a plane lands successfully on a runway, as the plane “touches down.”

A football game begins with a kickoff and that term is used to express the beginning of many new events, such as a sale, school year or government campaign.  Kickoffs are performed by the kicker who tries to kick the ball through the goalposts to score three points for a field goal.  However, when the goalposts are moved, the target is changed without notifying someone.  The goalposts are never moved on a football field, but they often are in life and leads to bouts of frustration and futility. 

In conclusion, in The United States baseball and football are the two most popular sports and for this reason contribute many baseball idioms and football idioms to the English language.

Excited to continue learning English in the United States? For over fifty years, ICLS has offered English classes for learners across the globe, including a number of English classes in washington dc, as well as business english and english pronunciation classes both in-person and online. Our extensive array of carefully tailored English language courses offers study options to meet the needs of English language students of all ages and abilities, in goal oriented, individually focused classes. All of the teachers at ICLS are highly qualified and experienced instructors in the field of teaching ESL. Our teachers encourage constant oral practice and continuous exchange within the classroom, as speaking English is the best way of learning English and becoming fluent. Quality is a byword for everything ICLS stands for in the field of language learning.

– Christian Zimmerman, ESL Teacher



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