1 de abril de 2016

Translation and sporting metaphors in Spanish today

Por Jesús Castañón Rodríguez

Translation and sporting metaphors in Spanish today 

Jesús Castañón Rodríguez (*)

(*) Versión en inglés del artículo «La traducción y las metáforas deportivas en el español actual» publicado en el número 146 de Puntoycoma, boletín de los traductores españoles de las instituciones de la Unión Europea.

Sport, as has been recognised recently by the Council of the European Union (1), has become the “largest non-governmental movement in Europe”, as well as being a social need, the expansion of which also has an impact on social innovations.

The sporting lexicon has traditionally been enriched by importing terms from other semantic spheres to form expressions, especially in journalistic language, as is recorded in the related bibliography in German, Spanish, French, English, Italian, Portuguese and Swedish (2). However, in recent times its forms of expression have been exported to other areas, thanks to its direct and attractive style of communication, and sports language has inspired analogies in economy, education, politics, religion, health and tourism, owing to its capacity to communicate messages clearly, to persuade with reactions based on emotions, to offer intensely-lived experiences and to transmit social and cultural values.

In political communication the metaphoric use of sports language has served to agitate emotions, since it benefits from references that are easily shared owing to their being strongly rooted in society. This has been a traditional phenomenon in the south of Europe, from the political speeches of Demosthenes (3) in Greece to the last third of the twentieth century, with the cases of Spain, where the language of the radio news services was developed on the style of the carrousel of multiple connections, and of Italy, where sport, television, economic leadership and entertainment were allied in a style of seduction to stimulate the public in electoral mode and to generate a climate of polarisation with behaviour reminiscent of fans.

In the twenty-first century, sports language has broadened its reach in the new communication techniques with emotional reinforcement aimed at generating trust, creating messages that are easy to remember or to tell, to give new meaning to data in order to influence in their interpretation, synthesise states of mind, classify experiences and create opinions. In times when communication is characterised by the predominance of emotion over reason, by the importance of being on the spot rather than reflecting on what is happening there and by enveloping the spectator in the action, the presentation of reality in sporting terms saves space, it transmits images that at the same time summarise facts and emotions and it benefits from an all-round enthusiasm that generates icons, brands, personalities and spaces to represent stories, values, dreams or aspirations.

In this context, the sports metaphor has become a resource that allows the establishment of a seductive association that is at the same time emotive, aesthetic and rhetorical and which is used for the following purposes: to create explanatory analogies and models, to generate linguistic formulations in the social imagination, to tell of reality using terms that are familiar to the recipient, to impact and seduce thanks to their being easy to understand, to condense emotions with intensity, to set the scene for memories of the past and present the facts in a different way. In the case of the Spanish language, this approach is usually applied in situations of six types: competitiveness with confrontation and tension, appraisal of results, classification of realities, creation of clichés, reaching non-specialised audiences through the use of graphic expressions that are easily understood from the context and the expression of euphemisms or commentary on epic or violent situations of daily reality.

Throughout history, the use of the sports metaphor has had such varied uses as the projection of sentiments of national pride with an idealised patriotic image, this being the case of the triumph at the FIFA World Cup in 1998, 2006 and 2010 in France, Italy and Spain, the creation of iconic images and the representation of daily life and advertising. The virtual seminar “Sports expressions as metaphors for daily life”, organised in Argentina in 2003 by the Centro de Estudios Olímpicos José Benjamín Zubiaur and the Universidad Nacional de San Luis, recorded a specialisation in information: chess in economy, advertisements, job offers and the business world, athletics in news of a political and military nature, boxing in the international section and football and cycling in the sections dedicated to radio and television. And in advertising, reference was made to the relationship between different products and a series of sports: athletics, motor racing, basketball, boxing, cycling, extreme sports, winter sports, rural sports, jogging, football, gymnastics, golf, weight-lifting, mountaineering, motorcycling, swimming, water sports, parachuting, skating, handball, rugby, tennis, archery and beach volleyball (4).

In view of this panorama, it is relevant to ask whether this situation poses problems for translation. To find a possible answer to this question, two issues need to be taken into consideration.

The first is whether it is easy to obtain information on concepts or terms and their equivalences between languages. This is an aspect that does not present great difficulty since the multilingual study of sports language, with the presence of the Spanish language, appears in four fields: studies on Anglicisation in Europe, the bibliography on high-level competition, multilingual conferences and works with a sociological focus.

The first field includes analyses of lexical and syntactical Anglicisms in German, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Spanish, French, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Rumanian and Russian (5).

The second field is represented by the presence of works on different editions of the Olympic Games, the Mediterranean Games and the FIFA World Cup, thanks to the work of the International Olympic Committee, the Agencia Efe news agency, the Fundación del Español Urgente BBVA, the Instituto Nacional de Educación Física y Deportes, the Diplomatic Information Office and the TERMCAT, among other bodies. Resources are available on terminological equivalences between German, Catalan, Spanish, French, English, Italian and Russian in relationship with sixty sports: chess, athletics, motor racing, badminton, basketball, handball, baseball, billiards, boxing, bowls, boccia, orienteering, hunting, cycling, air sports, adventure sports, winter sports, fencing, potholing, water-skiing, football, American football, gymnastics, golf, weight-lifting, riding, hockey, ice hockey, roller hockey, judo, karate, korfball, wrestling, mountaineering, motorcycling, speedboat racing, bodybuilding, swimming, water sports, paddle tennis, roller skating, pelota, modern pentathlon, fishing, petanque, canoeing, polo, racquetball, rowing, rugby, squash, surf, snowboarding, taekwondo, tennis, table tennis, archery, shooting, sailing and volleyball (6).

The third field offers multilingual conferences in Milan and Innsbruck, especially focused on German, Spanish, French, English and Italian. They analyse the application of sports language from the teaching perspective applied to language learning for specific purposes, its impact on the specialised work of professionals of physical activity and sports and its relationship with social aspects. And they describe the uses of the journalistic language of football in Germany, Austria, Bosnia, Croatia, Spain, France, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Russia and Sweden (7).

And the fourth field studies the relationship between political, journalistic and discursive transformations and continuities, as well as the multidisciplinary research into sports administration and management. Works on the media include the comparison of discourse analysis between Germany, Spain, France, Italy and the United Kingdom when building identities in daily life and forming stereotypes (8).

Finally, the second question that should be considered refers to some of the difficulties that may arise for the translation of metaphors when they bear a relationship with pseudo-Anglicisms and, especially, with the opaque phraseology and terminology of journalistic language. These are expressions, incomprehensible to non-sports enthusiasts, which have recourse to graphic and emotive concepts to facilitate a better understanding of the message. Curiously they are based on another previous metaphor and thus they convert overcoming a difficult situation into “opening the can”, the healthcare personnel who perform anti-doping control into “vampires”, the aerodynamic bicycle used by cyclists in the time trial into a “goat”, the block in basketball becomes a “hat”, imprecise passes become “thrown stones”, “melons” or “watermelons”, the semicircle of the penalty area on the football field is the “half-moon”, “crown” or “balcony”, excessive crowds entering an enclosure free of charge become “typhus”, the delay in the incorporation of a player after playing in an international match with the national team becomes “FIFA virus”, and a playing formation with three forwards becomes a “trident”.

In short, sport, as the largest non-governmental movement of the European Union, has also influenced the forms of expression of its inhabitants. It has leapt from the competition venues to avenues and streets to describe any aspect of contemporary life and has occupied various European universities in the study of the relationship between cultural history and specialised communications media, the political, cultural, emotive and aesthetic dimensions of sport and its social value.

Favouring comprehension of the variety and wealth of sports language constitutes an exciting challenge.



(1) Conclusions of the Council and of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, on sport as a driver of innovation and economic growth (OJ C 436, 5.12.2014, p. 2)

(2) See: <http://www.idiomaydeporte.com/articulos/algunas-referencias-para-el-estudio-de-las-metaforas-deportivas.php>.

(3) Demosthenes looked to boxing, relay racing, hunting, weight-lifting, riding and wrestling to create ideas of sporting, legal or bellicose confrontation (life as a competition, the politician as an athlete, the trajectory with a prize or final recompense) to move sentiments with the aim of modifying the standards of behaviour by characterising rivals and enemies using sporting traits, handling legal matters and defining the essence of democracy in terms of healthy rivalry. GARCÍA ROMERO, Fernando, y HERNÁNDEZ MUÑOZ, Felipe G.: «Metáforas del deporte en los discursos políticos de Demóstenes», Cuadernos de filología clásica: Estudios griegos e indoeuropeos n.º 6, pp. 107-141, Madrid, 1996.

(4) These data were complemented by the studies: CASTAÑÓN RODRÍGUEZ, Jesús, et al.Términos deportivos en el habla cotidiana, Universidad de La Rioja, Logroño, 2006. GARCÍA MOLINA, Emilio Tomás: Deporte y lenguaje, Consejo Superior de Deportes, Madrid, 2003.

(5) Some works on Anglicisation in Europe include: CALVO-FERRER, José Ramón, and CAMPOS PARDILLOS, Miguel Ángel [coords.]: Investigating Lexis, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Cambridge, 2014. FURIASSI, Cristiano, et al. [eds.]: The Anglicization of European Lexis, John Benjamins Publishing, Amsterdam, 2012. GÖRLACH, Manfred [ed.]: An Annotated Bibliography of European Anglicisms, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002. RODRÍGUEZ GONZÁLEZ, Félix: «Anglicismos en el mundo del deporte: variación lingüística y sociolingüística», Boletín de la Real Academia Española n.º XCII-CCCVI, pp. 261-285, Madrid, 2012, and «Pseudoanglicismos en español actual. Revisión crítica y tratamiento lexicográfico», Revista Española de Lingüística n.º 43-1, pp. 123-169, Madrid, 2013.

(6) A complete list of sources for multilingual consultation can be consulted in: CASTAÑÓN RODRÍGUEZ, Jesús: «El deporte y los diccionarios en español», en CREMADES, Raúl, et al.:Estudios actuales sobre lengua, literatura y su didáctica. Homenaje a Emilio A. Núñez Cabezas, pp. 93-114, VG Ediciones, Málaga, 2010, and SCHWARZ, Erika: «Sports terminology: experiences, needs and proposal of actions», Conference on co-operation in the field of terminology in Europe, Paris, 1999. The multilingual reference works on Olympic terminology include: KATZ, Jean-Daniel:Lexique olympique multilingue. Éditions du Goéland, Châtel-sur-Rolle, 1998.

(7) See: HERNÁN-GÓMEZ PRIETO, Beatriz [ed.]: Il Linguaggio dello Sport, la Comunicazione e la Scuola. LED, Milán, 2009. LAVRIC, Eva, et al. [eds.]: The Linguistics of Football, Gunter Narr, Tübingen, 2008.

(8) Among others, the following can be consulted for the Spanish language: CROLLEY, Liz, and HAND, David: Football Europe and the Press, Frank Cass, London, 2002. LLOPIS-GOIG, Ramón:Spanish Football and Social Change, Palgrave-Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2015. QUIROGA FERNÁNDEZ DE SOTO, Alejandro: Football and National Identities in Spain, Palgrave-Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2013.