The greatest football headline of all time?
When P.L. Travers wrote Mary Poppins, she invented a wonderful new word –supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! This was pure genius, but not as smart as one Scottish Journalist’s headline in February 2000. Following Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s surprising defeat of Celtic in the F.A. Cup, the headline in the Scottish Sun was as follows:
Super Caley go ballistic, Celtic were atrocious!
How completely brilliant!
When in Rome
In 1977, Liverpool progressed to the final of the European Cup for the first time in their history. Fans travelled to Rome’s Stadio Olimpico in their thousands for the match. Many had prepared banners for the occasion. One of these was a tribute to the team’s left back Joey Jones and has lived long in the memory. Liverpool had beaten St Etienne and Grasshoppers Zurich on their way to the final and were about to play Borussia Mönchengladbach. The iconic banner read:
Joey ate the frogs’ legs
Then he made the Swiss roll
And now he’s munching Gladbach
Never lost for words
The digital age has also inspired incredible linguistic creativity. We are bombarded with a barrage of information and promotional messages every day. Those messages and articles must be unique and memorable, if they are to command our attention. New words and phrases will often do the trick.
Headlines and advertisements have always been designed to grab our attention. But now those who seek to ensure we remember their name, idea, brand or product, have moved beyond puns and exaggerations. They leverage the English language to imbue their messages with greater impact.
In 2009, the advertising agency VCCP came up with a new ad campaign for the comparison site, comparethemarket.com. This featured the unforgettable anthropomorphic meerkat Orlov, whose catchphrase was “simples!”. Just ten years later, the word simples was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.
Then there was Michael Owen’s response to the suggestion that he was superstitious:
“I don’t believe in superstitions. I just do certain things because I’m scared in case something will happen if I don’t do them.”
The last word
Just occasionally, however, a player or manager will say something truly profound. In these moments, they demonstrate that they do, after all, boast a reasonable command of the English language. For the last word on the subject of football, we turn to the great Bill Shankly, a Scotsman with a sharp mind and an even sharper tongue. Those who love football have always struggled to sum up the importance of the sport to their lives. Good old Shanks managed to summon the perfect words:
“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude, I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”