Watching English Football: A Crucible of British-Speak

Football is the national sport of choice in England, and nothing stokes the nationalistic embers of the British like the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament. Three UK teams (England, Wales, and Northern Ireland) have all played three games apiece since we have been in London, and all three have now advanced to the Round of 16. Every time it is match day for the English national team, London streets are empty and London pubs are full of fans cheering on their beloved Three Lions.

My first week of work, I was able to experience firsthand what it is like to watch an English game with the locals in a pub. The game, England vs. UK neighbor Wales, was on a Thursday afternoon. So my company rented out the bottom floor of a nearby pub in the financial district and threw a watch-party to woo insurance brokers to do business with Channel.

As the young intern there, I was surrounded by people I did not know or had just met the day before, so it was the perfect opportunity to observe British pub talk and conversation codes from a third party perspective. Similar to American sports teams, the English football team is a vehicle for unification among its fans, and the pub is the venue that facilitates social bonds with its integrative environment. In talking with my coworkers and insurance brokers during the game, in retrospect I now see how the Pub-Talk Sociability and Free-Association rule are used by British people to meet new people and direct conversations. The subjects ranged from the weather to the upcoming Brexit referendum, and when Daniel Sturridge scored the go-ahead goal in stoppage time, to the dramatic English 2-1 win over Wales.

  • In the book, Fox notes somewhere along the way that you can almost learn anything you want to know about English culture without ever leaving a pub. She says if you never enter a pub, you won’t have a clue about what it’s like to be English. On this blog, we’ve seen a few different encounters with English customs in pubs. On Monday, we witnessed a touch of English humor as well. As Iceland scored their second goal to take the lead against England, everyone laughed! This is a perfect example of self-deprecating humor. In the US, when the opposing team scores in any major sporting event, everyone moans or gets angry. While the English certainly weren’t happy that Iceland won, they weren’t going to miss a chance to make fun of themselves.

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