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May 2014



Football Idioms from Around the World by The Bookworm Translation Team

Welcome to our May edition of our newsletter, whose main focus in the run up to the 2014 Brazil Football World Cup is football-related idioms from around the globe. We asked our translators to give us some idioms which stem from the beautiful game in their country and share their suggestions below. As we are a UK-based company, the football idioms we know best are those which originate from the British Isles, so we will mainly concentrate on these and their (sometimes) rather obscure meanings. Football (or soccer, to avoid confusing our American friends) is one of those odd sports which doesn’t tend to leave people indifferent: you either love it or you hate it. No matter whether you’re a lover or a hater, you will come across plenty of football-related idioms in everyday life. This is not in the least surprising, considering that The Football League was founded in England as early as 1888, making it the world’s first professional football competition. Football has been one of the most popular sports ever since the 19th century, although I would suggest that the level of popularity largely depends on the performance of your nation’s team. This means we’ve had a good 120 years to steal words and phrases from the world of football and turn them into everyday use idioms. It seems that they are particularly popular in both business and political contexts. While not all of these idioms necessarily originated in football, this newsletter takes a short tour around some of the sports idioms in use in the English language today as well as those in other languages from around the world. So before we begin, those of you who know little to nothing about football best get yourself acquainted with its associated vocabulary. To get by during the months of June and July, we also suggest you brush up on your knowledge of football phrases. Take our quiz at the end of this newsletter to become an idiom genius, and to be in with a chance of winning a bottle of bubbly! Finally, you can converse with French, English and Spanish football fans by using this handy glossary of football terms. Now let’s kick off this newsletter properly!

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UK FOOTBALL IDIOMS EXPLAINED Below are some examples of UK football idioms which you should try to include in conversations both at football games and in any social situations you find yourself in. You should try to make your own sentences up which use these idioms to really get the hang of their meaning. UK Football Idiom



a game changer

an event, idea, or procedure that effects a significant shift in the current way of doing or thinking about something

‘The recent large export order could be a real game changer for the business’.

a game plan

a strategy worked out in advance

‘We have to come up with a good game plan if we want to beat the competition’.

a political football

a topical issue that is the subject of continued argument or controversy

‘Immigration policy is a real political football in the European Union’.

a screamer

an extremely fast ball or shot

‘The goalie didn't have the time to move as the two screamers flashed past him’.

at this stage in the game

at this point

‘I don’t think there is anything we can do at this stage in the game’.

in/out of my league

a class or category of quality or excellence

‘Kat is so intelligent and good looking. She’s absolutely out of my league’.

level playing field

Showing no favoritism or undue advantage.

‘The exam was set so that all applicants were on a level playing field’.

to be on the ball

Aware of and quick to respond to new ideas and methods

‘I am not really on the ball today because I didn’t get any sleep last night’.

to blow the whistle on someone

to bring an illicit activity to an end by informing on the person responsible

‘It looks like they fired her because she threatened to blow the whistle on their illegal activities’.

to keep one’s eye on (or to take one’s eye off) the ball

to keep (or fail to keep) one’s attention focused on the matter in hand

‘If you want to be successful in this job, you have to keep your eye on the ball’. / ‘He took his eye off the ball for only one second and the rival company snatched the deal away from him’.

to kick someone around

to treat someone roughly or without respect

‘I am really tired of John kicking me around like this’.

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to kick something off

to begin or cause something to begin

‘We’re meeting for the first time today to kick off the project and to determine what needs to be done’.

to know the score

to be aware of the essential facts about a situation

‘I was going to update Jane on the situation, but she already knows the score’.

to miss a sitter

to miss out on an easy opportunity

‘In front of an open goal, Dan missed a sitter’.

to move the goalposts

to unfairly alter the conditions or rules of a procedure during its course

‘Olivia quit her job because her employer kept moving the goalposts about her promotion prospects’.

to score an own goal

an act that unintentionally harms one’s own interests

‘Mary really scored an own goal when she quit her job before signing her new contract’.

to take sides

to support one person or cause against another or others in a dispute or contest

‘I refuse to take sides in this argument; you will have to work this one out yourself’.

to watch from the sidelines

a position where someone is observing a situation rather than being directly involved in it

‘Harry was taken off the project, because he was watching from the sidelines rather than getting involved’.

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FOOTBALL MADNESS – WORLDWIDE FOOTBALL SAYINGS AND IDIOMS Below are some football-related sayings & idioms from other countries, courtesy of our freelance translators from around the world. We hope you enjoy them and manage to slip a few into conversation over the water cooler! La pelota no se mancha Literal translation: "the ball should not be stained". Definition: Maradona said it and implied that the press can be hard on him but soccer is holy and cannot be touched.

ARGENTINA With thanks to Veronica Mastronardi Tenés menos definición que un Atari Literal translation: "You have less definition than an Atari" Definition: Atari was an early video game brand, so this phrase means that the player really isn’t very good!


Jugar de 5

Uderzyć panu bogu w okno

Literal translation: "play wearing number 5".

Literal Translation: To shoot at God's window

Definition: If you play in position number 5 you have a less glamorous role than the goal scorers. It means you have a low profile.

Definition: To miss the shot very badly (the ball flies much too high)

4, no te conoce ni tu vieja, cuando te llama a comer grira: ¡4 a comer! Literal translation: "4, not even your mum knows you, when she calls you because the meal is ready, she shouts: ¡4 come to eat! Definition: People shout this to soccer players who are not well-known and are not playing well during a match. Me cortaron las piernas Literal translation: "My legs have been cut". Definition: This was said by Maradona when he was tested positive for doping, following which he was removed from the 1994 Soccer World Cup.

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With thanks to Jakub Radzimiński

Huknąć jak z armaty Literal translation: To fire as if from a cannon Definition: To make a very powerful shot Zawodnik z jedną nogą Literal translation: A player with one leg Definition: A player who can shoot well with only one foot



With thanks to Flora Lacoponi Prendere la palla al balzo Literal Translation: To catch a bouncing ball Definition: To take advantage of an unexpected situation Andare nel pallone / Andare in palla Literal translation: Going to the ball

With thanks to Paula Goes Aposentar a chuteira Literal translation: To retire one's [soccer] boots Definition: To retire for football players, for anyone else to let go of something work related, such as career, to have an easier life. Former president Lula used it to say that in relation to his political career.

Definition: To freak out/ To get confused because of too much stimulation (like a ball on the football pitch)

Comer a Bola

Salvarsi in calcio d'angolo / Salvarsi in corner

Definition: to play very well.

Literal translation: To save oneself in a corner

Pontapé inícial

Definition: To get out of a bad situation but not completely (in football a player can send the ball off the pitch to avoid a goal but get a corner kick for the other team that way)

Literal translation: kick-off /the first contact of the foot

Literal translation: to eat the ball

Definition: the start of anything. There is also a whole book dedicated to Portuguese football-related words should you wish to find out more!

Idiom /ˈɪdɪəm/ noun: idiom; a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words

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Die rote Karte zeigen Literal Translation: to show somebody the red card; Definition: to warn/caution somebody

ROMANIA With thanks to Mihaela Meci Fii pe fază ! Literal Translation: Keep your eyes on the ball!


Definition: Pay attention

With thanks to Teresa Rego

A trage o bombă

Meter un gol a alguien

Literal Translation: To shoot a bomb

Literal Translation: to score a goal against someone

Definition: To put a curve on a ball

Definition: to take advantage of someone while they are unaware. Estar fuera de juego Literal Translation: to be offside Definition: someone has lost all his influence over or is unaware of a specific topic. Sudar la camiseta GERMANY

Literal translation: to sweat the T-shirt

With thanks to Michaela Sommer

Definition: to work hard

Ein Eigentor schießen

Ver puerta

Literal translation: to score an own goal;

Literal Translation: to see the door

Definition: something that someone does to try to get an advantage, but which makes a situation worse for them

Definition: to score a goal

Den Ball flach halten Literal Translation: to keep the ball down; Definition: to keep your feet on the ground, to be careful

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Farolillo rojo Literal translation: red Chinese lantern Definition: the last one



Example Sentence

across the board cards

equal for everyone

Ten percent raises were given across the board.

the ball is in your court tennis

it's your decision or responsibility to do something now

"Do you think I should accept the job offer?" "Don't ask me. The ball is in your court now".

bark up the wrong tree hunting

you've got the wrong person or idea

I think you're barking up the wrong tree by blaming Matt for the missing money.

blow the competition away any sport

win easily

If you wear that dress to the beauty pageant you are going to blow the competition away.

call the shots billiards

make the decisions

While our boss is on vacation, Bob will call the shots.

chip in gambling

help by donating money or time

The staff members chipped in 5 dollars each to buy Jody a birthday gift.

down to the wire horse racing

right at the end

It's coming down to the wire to get these done on time.

front runner track/ horse racing

one of the people who is expected to win

Angela is a front runner for the new supervisor position.

get a head start track/ horse racing

start before all others

They gave the walkers a head start in the run for cancer.

get into the full swing tennis

be comfortable doing something after some time

It will probably take a month of working at my new job before I get into the full swing of things.

get off the hook fishing

escape, have responsibility removed

The child got off the hook for stealing because the security camera was broken.

give something or someone a fair shake gambling

try for a while before giving up

You should give Nadine a fair shake before you decide she isn't good enough for the job.

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get a second wind sailing

have a burst of energy after tiring

I was exhausted after 3 kilometres of running, but I got a second wind after I passed the beach.

give it your best shot hunting

try your hardest

Give it your best shot and you may just make it to the finals.

give one a run for one's money horseracing

try one's hardest to defeat another person

I know the other team is expected to win, but let's give them a run for their money tonight.

go overboard sailing

do or say more than you need to

You can't believe everything Janice says about Rick. She tends to go overboard when she's complaining about him.

go to bat for someone baseball

defend someone

Andy is asking for a salary increase, and I'm going to go to bat for him if the boss says no.

have the upper hand cards

have a better chance of winning or succeeding

The Blues have the upper hand in the tournament, because none of their players is injured.

hit below the belt boxing

do or say something that is very unfair or cruel

Amanda was hitting below the belt when she called Adrian an unfit father.

hit a snag boating

come up against a problem

The renovations were going along great until we hit a snag with the carpet installation.

hold all the aces cards

expected to win or succeed

The children hold all the aces when it comes to the father-son baseball tournament.

the home stretch baseball/ horse racing

almost the end

I think Alice's pregnancy is in the home stretch.

hot shot (big shot) hunting

a person who thinks they are the best

Even though Luke only placed 20th in the ski race, he thinks he's a hot shot.

jump the gun track

start too early

I guess I jumped the gun by buying Pam and Steve a wedding gift. They called off the engagement.

keep one's head above water swimming

try not to fall behind in work or other duties

We are so busy during the tourist season I can barely keep my head above water.

learn the ropes

understand new things

The first week on the job you will just be learning

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the ropes.

let her rip boating

go ahead now

Okay, here are the keys to your new car. Let her rip!

level playing field any field sport

everyone has an equal chance

The spelling bee is a level playing field because all of the kids are in grade nine.

long shot hunting

a very difficult thing to accomplish

Jim thinks we can afford the house, but I think it's a long shot.

make the cut any sport

be chosen to be part of a team or group

I didn't get a second interview, so I'm pretty sure I won't make the cut.

neck and neck horse racing

to be in a close tie with someone

George and Stan are neck and neck in the hockey pool. Either of them could win the money.

no sweat any sport

no problem

I told Lily it was no sweat for us to babysit next weekend.

not playing with a full deck of cards cards

not having full brain capacity

I think Jerry was still drunk at work on Sunday because he wasn't playing with a full deck of cards.

not up to par golf

not good enough for a job or position

I'm afraid your resume isn't up to par for the engineering position.

to be off base baseball

not making a fair or true remark

You were way off base when you said Bill needed to lose weight.

on target darts

doing the right thing to succeed

We are on target to meet our budget this month.

on the ball baseball

ready and able

The new receptionist is really on the ball when it comes to answering the phone.

out in left field baseball

Unexpected or not the norm

All of the students laughed when Joe gave an answer that was out in left field.

out of someone's league team sport

not as good as someone

I'd like to date Maria, but I'm afraid I'm out of her league.

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par for the course golf

an expected circumstance

Waiting in line is par for the course while Christmas shopping.

plenty of other fish in the sea fishing

there are possibilities to compensate a loss (often boyfriend or girlfriend) by meeting other men and women to date

I know you still love Jack, but remember there are plenty of other fish in the sea.

race against time track

there is almost no time left to accomplish something

It's a race against time to find a kidney donor for my cousin.

settle a score with someone any sport

get even with a person after a previous battle

My brother wants to settle the score with that guy who stole my wallet.

shot in the dark hunting

a guess

I was lucky to win the quiz. All my answers were shots in the dark.

skate on thin ice skating

do something risky, take a chance which might backfire

John didn't realise that by criticising his boss's football team he was skating on thin ice.

start the ball rolling ball sports

begin something

Please can everyone be seated so we can start the ball rolling.

step up to the plate baseball

do the honourable thing, take responsibility

It's time you stepped up to the plate and apologized for your mistake.

take a rain check baseball

accept at a later time

Sorry, I can't go to the movies today, but I'd love to take a rain check.

take sides any sport

choose a person or group to support

I hate to take sides, but I think Jerry is right about the paint colour.

take the bull by the horns bull fighting

accept the challenge and try your hardest

Even though this new job will mean relocating, I think you should take the bull by the horns for once.

take the wind out of one's sails sailing

make someone feel deflated

I think I took the wind out of Angela's sails when I told her she was a terrible singer.

throw in the towel boxing

give up

If they don't accept our offer this time we are going to throw in the towel and look at houses elsewhere.

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time out any sport

A break to regroup or rethink a game plan

Let's take some time out and grab a coffee.

three strikes and you're out baseball

you only get three chances

The school's no smoking policy is three strikes and you're out.

two strikes against baseball

you only have one chance remaining

Nancy is going to be fired in no time. She already has two strikes against her for coming in late.

under the table gambling


I don't have a work visa, so they have to pay me under the table.

win hands down gambling

easy victory

The other team was missing half of its players. We won hands down.

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STILL NOT HAD YOUR FILL OF IDIOMS? Don’t fret! Here are some non-sport specific idioms to help you learn how to speak English like a native. You can also try to use these idioms in as many conversations as possible!

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MAY QUIZ – SPOT THE IDIOMS! Now that you know all there is to know about sporting idioms, see if you can understand this dialogue between two salesmen discussing a new position available at work: Frank:

Hey Ashley, have you heard the latest?

Ashley: Yeah, the position of Sales Manager has come up again. Frank:

I’d heard that Adams was on a sticky wicket.

Ashley: Yeah, apparently the board said that he wasn’t up to par and asked him to resign. He told them he wasn’t ready to throw in the towel so they sacked him! Frank:

No way…that’s just not cricket. So who do you think’ll get it this time?

Ashley: Apparently, Redknapp from the South West sales team has applied again. Frank:

Well, that’s par for the course. Any serious contenders?

Ashley: I think that Ferguson has a chance, his presentation last month really impressed me. Frank:

Seriously, the man’s an idiot!

Ashley: Well, that’s a bit below the belt but maybe he isn’t really up to scratch. Frank:

I’ve always rated O’Neill, he’s been the top salesman for the last six months.

Ashley: No, you’re backing the wrong horse there; he’d never go into management Frank:

I’ve got it - Ancelotti! Hard working, respected and the board love him!

Ashley: Too true, Horses for courses I say! Frank:

Although could be neck and neck between him and Ferguson, I believe he’s applied and I think he’s on a par with him in experience. So Ashley, what are you up to?

Cheryl: Hi Ashley, ready to go? Ashley: Sorry Frank, catch you later…Thanks Cheryl, saved by the bell, didn’t want to tell him that I’ve applied for the job!” How many sporting idioms did you spot, or is this all double Dutch to you?! Send us your list of idioms found in the above conversation ( and we will draw the winner from a list of complete and correct entries. The lucky winner will be sent a bottle of champagne courtesy of us. Good luck!

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Many thanks to all of you who took part in our poetry competition back in our December newsletter. I am pleased to announce that we now have a winner! Our congratulations go to Eve Wellard who got the lion’s share of the votes. Eve – we will be sending you a bottle of champagne in the coming days – enjoy  THEY THINK IT’S ALL OVER… IT IS NOW! Thank you for taking the time to read through this newsletter, we hope you found it of interest. Should you wish to contact us for any translation requirements you have going forward, please do so either via email: or by phone: +44(0)161 943 1593. We look forward to working with you!

Please keep in touch with us going forward:

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Our Translators We recently asked our translators to send us their picture as we realised that most of these hard working individuals, whilst being our main asset, usually work on a freelance basis and are therefore hidden from our clients. The next two-page spread shows the pictures we received, but these are by no means all our registered freelance translators—they just give you a quick overview of the number of literary translators registered with our agency, and shows our clients what a lovely bunch they are with it! These translators speak an impressive number of languages and have translated a variety of books detailed in our Book Brochure, namely in the fields of: • • • • • • • •

Art Film & Design Biographies Business Children’s Classics Comics Education General Fiction

• • • • • • • •

Lifestyle Non-Fiction Philosophy Poetry Psychology Romance Science & Technology Spirituality

If you want to find out more about any of them, please either give us a call on +44(0)161 943 1593 or drop us a line using and we will send you their CVs. Alternatively, you can find more details about these individuals here.

Registered Company Address: Bookworm Translations, Unit 19, 14-16 Whitworth St, Manchester M1 3BS Registration Number: 6707161 / Website: / Tel: +44(0)161 236 8960 / Email:

Bookworm translations May 2014 Newsletter  

Here is our May newsletter which includes football-related idioms from around the world in anticipation for the 2014 Football World Cup in B...

Bookworm translations May 2014 Newsletter  

Here is our May newsletter which includes football-related idioms from around the world in anticipation for the 2014 Football World Cup in B...