Photo courtesy of Josh Lackey
If you’re thinking of studying in the USA, you’re in for incredible opportunities, adventure, and first-class teaching. And the more you immerse yourself in the culture, the more rewarding your experience becomes.
For international students, the Super Bowl is an American experience not to be missed. Whether you’re a fan of the sport or not, there’s something for everyone: the spectacle, the halftime show, the commercials, the chilli – it’s all to be savoured.
This Sunday, the New England Patriots take on last year’s winners the Seattle Seahawks, in a bid to lift the biggest prize in American sport.
So to help you get through the game with some idea of what is going on, we compiled a run-down of some of the unique English vocabulary that gridiron (American football) uses.
Audible: When the quarterback calls a last-second change to the play. It’s confusing for everyone, so you’re not alone! This has made its way into everyday speech in the USA, used when someone assumes responsibility. “Ok, the boss is away, so I’m calling an audible on this one.”
Blitz: When the defending team goes hell-for-leather to tackle the opposing quarterback. In other words, the big guys try to smash the guy with the ball before he can throw it.
Deflate-gate: The term coined for the conspiracy surrounding the Patriots’ last game, where they were accused of deflating the balls to gain an advantage. Top scientists have been explaining the physics of it to the nation for the past fortnight.
Downs: This is at the heart of the game’s rules. The team with the ball has four attempts (downs) to gain 10 yards, (the TV networks put a yellow line in for you). So, if you hear ‘3rd and 7’ it means it’s their third attempt and have seven yards still to gain. If they’re successful, the whole process starts again. If they’re too far away after three tries, they’ll usually punt (see below) the ball.
End Zone: The areas at either end of the field that are usually coloured and show the teams’ logos. Get the ball in there and you score a Touchdown.
Extra Point: After a touchdown is scored, that team can kick the football through the posts for an extra point.
Face Mask: No, this has nothing to do with beauty treatments. In football it is an illegal move when someone grabs an opposing player’s helmet to stop him. This incurs a penalty.
Fair Catch: When the guy returning a kick puts his hand in the air, he’s saying to the big guys about to tackle him: “Ok, I won’t try to run, just please don’t hurt me!”
Field Goal: A scoring option worth three points – kicking the ball between the yellow posts.
Fumble: When a player who has complete control of the ball drops it. There’s then a mad scramble for the ball, with everyone piling on top of each other.
Going for Two: Rather than kicking an ‘extra point’ after a touchdown, you can opt to run or pass into the end zone from the two yard line. The riskier option for sure, but worth two points.
Hail Mary: Desperate times call for desperate measures. A Hail Mary is when a quarterback throws the ball towards the end zone in the last seconds of the half or game, praying a teammate will catch it and win the game. When this works everyone goes berserk.
Interception: When the quarterback’s throw is caught by a player on the other team. This is about the worst thing that can happen for a quarterback.
Line of Scrimmage: The line where the ball was stopped. This is where the two teams face each other.
Pick Six: Ok, this is the worst thing that can happen for a quarterback. It’s when he throws an interception and the ball is returned by a defending player for a touchdown.
Pocket: The little space that the big guys make for their quarterback. From here he can look for the best passes up field.
Punt: A kick to the opposing team on 4th down
Quarterback: If you don’t know who this is by now, you’re better off just concentrating on the chilli and chicken wings.
Sack: When the quarterback is tackled behind the line of scrimmage. The tacklers often go for a little dance afterwards to show people how happy they are.
Snap: The start of the play when the ball is passed back to the quarter back (through the big guy’s legs).
Touchback: When a punt or kickoff is caught in the end zone.
Touchdown: When a player takes or catches the ball in an opponent’s end zone, scoring six points. Then begins the excessive celebrations and choreographed dancing.
Unnecessary Roughness: It seems that roughness is allowed, but only where necessary. Otherwise, you’ll be penalised.
An all-nighter: If you’re one of the millions of people around the world staying up late to tune in to the big game you’ll be doing what’s called ‘an all-nighter.’ This is colloquial term which most students become familiar with at some point.
Enjoy the game! And follow @TakeIELTS1 for more tips on using English abroad.
If you’re thinking of studying in the USA, and need an English test, click here.