The Euros and Linguistics


With the final group matches starting today, the Euros' squeaky bum time has begun. Squeaky bum time? If you follow British football coverage, you know that this phrase, coined by Sir Alex Ferguson of "Football, bloody hell!" fame, is used to denote times when things are really close and important - to take an extreme example, during a World Cup final penalty shoot-out.

I always intuitively understood that metaphor: When you're nervous, you move around your butt on the seat a lot, which can produce a squeaking sound. But then I read a different explanation - and from a native speaker, too: If you're nervous that makes you fart a lot. This may have been a joke - as a German I'm not good at understanding these - but taken at face value, this seems unlikely (despite my first instinct being to trust the native speaker). That's because I've never associated nervousness with flatulence.

Any native speakers in the house? Experts on flatulence? Sir Alex himself?


A good way to celebrate a Turkey win if you're a person of Turkish descent living in Germany: Shout Döner very loudly in public. Repeat as seems appropriate.


Political Scientist said...

Re: "Squeaky bum time".
I think it's related to being sweaty thru' being under stress, but I'm not sure.

Many native speakers have difficulty understanding what our footballers mean. My favourite gnomic saying comes from Cantona: "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea."

LemmusLemmus said...

Ah, a third hypothesis, excellent. However, I'm skeptical. Given that in my experiences people who watch football, and coaches on the bench in particular, tend to wear trousers, I'm not sure there could be an effect of sweating. I think we need a scientific study here.

Can you tell me what you mean by "gnomic"? The dictionaries I consulted didn't help.

I don't think that Cantona quote, from a press conference if I'm not mistaken, is not that mysterious: "Trawler" = Cantona, "seagulls" = journalists, "sardines" = headline-worthy statements. But of course, I may be wrong (again).

Political Scientist said...

Yes, see what you mean about footballers and shorts. It is a mystery.

"gnomic" -[link] - is defined in this link as "marked by aphorisms", which is rather more elegant than my version: "prone to make insights that are obscure but sound profound".
It's a fine adjective, one of my favourites.

[The reference says it call also mean "pertaining to gnomes". I have never used it in this sence, but I now intend to.]

LemmusLemmus said...

I note that my previous post contained a double negative that was not some clever take on Cantona's limited English, but rather a mistake.

Anyway, thank you.

Given what you've said, I challenge you to write a blogpost that uses the word in both meanings, preferrably simultaneously. I was considering promising something funny about footballers' shorts, butts or farts in return, but I don't really think so.

Political Scientist said...

Challenge accepted! Possibly before the end of the week.