5 unusual words & phrases to upgrade your World Cup 2018 banter

Whether you’re a football fanatic or somewhat indifferent to sport, the 2018 World Cup brings everyone together to celebrate the beautiful game. Impress your friends, family and colleagues with this unusual collection of football lingo. Throw a few of these words and phrases into your World Cup conversation and you’ll be as right as Harry Kane.


First coined by Crystal Palace manager Iain Dowie during their hard times in the 2003/04 football season, bouncebackability is described as the ability to recover after a setback – something England fans are more than familiar with after waiting over 50 years to win the World Cup again.

Try saying this next time you’re in a beer garden: ‘I think England are demonstrating significant bouncebackability’. Then sit back and enjoy the well-earned nods of respect.


Compared to their tougher sporting counterparts like rugby players, footballers receive a lot of criticism for their occasional dramatics on the pitch. Grassrolling, first used by Iranian fans before making its way to English forums, refers to the act of rolling around on the grass to waste time and convince the referee that a foul has been committed or they’ve been injured.

It’s a delicate art which involves falling dramatically to the floor and engaging in some Oscar-worthy writhing. Try it out next time your friend asks if you fancy going for a run.

Dundee United

This one is somewhat mordant, a phrase believed to have been coined by Nigerian football fans in the 1970s after a disastrous football tour of the country by Dundee United. In Nigeria, if you refer to a team or player as a Dundee United, you’re calling them idiotic. A 2010 BBC documentary about the Nigerian capital Lagos uncovered this unusual phrase when a local man described fools in his city as a Dundee United.

This isn’t the only example of teams becoming infamous global slang. In Korea, the phrase ‘Leeds Days’ describes a person’s heyday, referencing a time when Leeds United were a reasonably successful team in Europe. Savage.


Some Russian slang for those of you jetting off to the host country during the 2018 World Cup. When you’re in the stands, you might hear Russian fans screaming the word gorish. This roughly translates to mean ‘you’re burning’, used as a warning that you’re being pursued by an opponent.

Whilst it’s probably pretty common for native Russians to yell it during matches, we wouldn’t recommend yelling it in a crowded place without just cause, particularly if you’re wearing an England shirt.


You’ve probably heard this one before if you’re a werewolf or a diehard Harry Potter fan. In a wider context, we’ve all been guilty of committing a howler, a slang term for a stupid mistake.

In the world of professional football, a howler is most often used to describe when a goalie commits an (unforgivable in the fans’ eyes) error which leads to a goal for the opposing team. Hard to live down and likely to haunt the poor goalie for the rest of their life, if not in a screeching red envelope then at least on Twitter.

Squeaky-bum time

Another fantastic phrase coined in the 21st century by Sir Alex Ferguson, this delightfully British expression is less about making sure England avoid staining those lovely clean kits, and instead is used to describe the tense final matches of a football tournament.

It’s early days yet, but England’s first match against Tunisia was definitely squeaky-bum time after practically gifting Tunisia a penalty and causing a draw at half-time. Don’t you worry, the football pundits at Collins Dictionary predict many more squeaky-bum moments in the 2018 World Cup to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Can’t get enough of the World Cup coverage? Check out our brilliantly Brazilian blog post from World Cup 2014 for a burst of new vocab.

Other Articles

Advent and Advent Calendars

“The Lord Will Come and not be Slow”(John Milton) Ah, Advent! The season when children’s faces and some adults’ faces, too – mine, anyway – light up while, day by day, they open whatever kind of Advent calendar has come their way. I vividly remember, aged… Read More

Antarctica Day

This Thursday, 1 December, marks the annual Antarctica Day. If you’re wondering why such a day exists, its raison d’être is to celebrate the signing in 1959 of the Antarctic Treaty by the twelve countries then actively exploring the continent. The treaty recognised that this, the… Read More

Your essential guide to World Cup vocabulary

The weather outside is frightful, but for football fans the most delightful time of the year is upon us – admittedly a few months later than usual – as the 2022 World Cup kicks off in Qatar this November. First played in 1930, the World Cup is an international association… Read More