Sporting Propaganda: The Language of Strategic Fouling

Miroslav Imbrišević
Formerly of Heythrop College, University of London


Words don’t just describe the world; they change the world. We do things with words as John L. Austin (1975) has argued. But words can also change how we think about something. In this piece I wish to examine the everyday usage of words referring to strategic fouling, as it cuts across various languages. In some languages this rule-violation gave rise to figurative language after the practice became wide-spread. We find euphemisms but also dysphemisms, as well as evaluative language (whose purpose here is to excuse the action). This is important, because ‘if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought’ (as George Orwell observed). I will argue that euphemisms and other evaluative language which refer to strategic fouling are a piece of sporting propaganda, aiming to dull our senses to such rule-violations.


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MIROSLAV IMBRIŠEVIĆ is a political and legal philosopher. Until recently he taught political theory at Heythrop College, University of London. In 2018 he began publishing in philosophy of sport, with a particular focus on strategic fouling. Miroslav’s present research area is the normativity of game rules. Growing up bilingually (Croatian and German) and having lived in the UK for the last 35 years, he has never lost his interest in how we use language.


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