False alarm

My heart quickened when I saw this article on the website Bleacher Report: pace

The reason is that my friend David Friedman, an (American) West Ham supporter, periodically tells me about terms specific to English football, and one of them is pace, referring to the fleetness of a player. Americans, of course, use speed. The Bleacher Report story on the NBA (National Basketball Association) seemed like proof that the word had crossed over.

Was it Hamlet who said, “I know not ‘seems'”? In any case, it turned out the Americanization of pace was an illusion. The Bleacher report piece went on:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 8.54.19 PM That is, the writer was talking about a team’s pace of play, not an individual’s foot speed. Never mind.

6 thoughts on “False alarm

  1. So now we’re doing “Almost One-off Britishisms”, are we? (I figured I’d throw in a little British punctuation there just to bring this whole discussion to threshold.)

  2. Ben
    I suspect your friend, David, may have been a tad prescriptive with his comment of the use of pace for an individual player’s running or dribbling speed. (But as a West Ham supporter, it’s a pound to a pinch of sh!t that his knowledge and experience of proper football is necessarily somewhat limited!)

    Players may occasionally be labelled “pacey” by ex-player pundits on NBC sakker coverage, but retired footballers are not normally noted for their vocabulary or grammatical acumen, are they (pace [sic] the three or four who were Oxbridge D.Phils!)?

    However my OED does list “pace bowler n.: one who bowls the fast ball in cricket” – but that’s a totally different kettle of fish and one that our transatlantic friends are unlikely ever to appreciate and love.


  3. I don’t know about NBC, but here in the UK, the word “pace” is used a lot when talking about certain players and teams.

    A pacey team is one that can string together lots of quick, effective passes in a short amount of time to mount an attack on the goal. British teams are (on average) known for their pacey play. On the flipside, Italian and Spanish teams are known for being more laid back, keeping the ball for long periods, making use of side and back passes before launching a quick burst of pacey play in an attack.

    Pace in an individual player is often, but not always, indicative of sheer speed or powerful running ability. Some of the best older players will be described thus: “the first yard is in the head”. So, despite being older and “slower” their experience can be used to find space and receive and make a quick series of passes that could be described as “pace” without the player having to move much above a walk.

  4. In my profession (theatre acting), I was taught that “pace” and “rate” were two different things: “rate” means simply how fast you’re going; “pace” means how well you succeed in matching your rate to the meaning and tone of the play. The best definition of good “pace” is held to be “go as fast as you can without leaving anything out”. Harder than it sounds.

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