Today’s New York Daily News Front Page

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There is so much to say about this laudable attempt by an American newspaper to simulate British argot in marking Iceland’s remarkable football (“footy” for short) victory over England yesterday.  First, “Mighty England” is a longstanding phrase, applied not only to the national football team but to the country as a a reference  to the chant ““We’re from England – mighty, mighty England.” Over on Twitter, there has been considerable discussion about whether a hypothetical youngster would say “mummy,” or “mum,” or whether he would address his mother at all on this matter. (There have been no objections to “my arse.”)

Then there’s “call bollocks on” apparently meaning “to call something bollocks.” The phrase is not only not listed in the OED, it’s not even listed in Urban Dictionary. Lynne Murphy, who alerted me to the Daily News front page, has already blogged that it’s not an actual British expression. It’s certainly not widespread, but it’s out there, with 1,870 Google hits for “call bollocks on” and 874 for “call bollocks to.”

What do you lot think?

42 thoughts on “Today’s New York Daily News Front Page

  1. “Mighty England?” I’m in my mid-sixties and I’ve never heard that phrase before. Please provide citations.

    If the headline been written by a native English speaker, its first word would have been followed by a question mark (query) or at least by an elipsis. Or even both.

    Notwithstanding, England’s performance last night was a crock of

      1. “We’re from England – mighty, mighty England” is a sports chant (the name ‘England’ obviously interchangeable with, for example, a town or county name). But I too have never heard ‘Mighty England’ as a generic phrase. Plucky little England, yes. I’m afraid the title of an obscure history book doesn’t cut it for me (sorry, Ben).

  2. “Mighty England” is not a phrase I’m familiar with in any context. In footballing terms the more apt description would be “brave, plucky, little England” or perhaps “utterly inept, omnishambolic England”.

    I think the “call bollocks on” expression is simply a direct translation of the American idiom “call bullshit on” which even the NY tabloids might still be loathe to print in large type across the front page.

  3. Bollocks is quite common in the UK, as in ‘talking bollocks’ or ‘it’s the dog’s bollocks’, in other words talking rubbish. Complete and utter rubbish would be: Bollocks on stilts.

  4. There’s an article on the BBC website today about the disastrous and embarrassing results of auto-translate software. That front page looks like the result of translating something from (British) English into, say, Korean and back again!

  5. As you say, a laudable attempt. But I’m really not sure it makes any sense. It reminds me of some of the T-shirts you see worn by kids in Italy with completely meaningless English slogans on them. Btw, I’ve never heard the expression “call bullocks on” before, but I’m an old fogey who obviously knows nothing.

  6. Never heard of “call bollocks” in any context, nor of “Mighty England” in any context. Where did they get this stuff from?
    To correct Robin, “the dog’s bollocks” actually means top-notch, not rubbish. Bollocks (just thought I’d type it again) is really only used verbally, being a bit too rude of a word for normal publication.

    1. Re. “To correct Robin, ‘the dog’s bollocks’ actually means top-notch…” kind of like, in the U.S., “a brick shithouse.”

      1. perhaps the roaring 20s slang phrases “the bee’s knees” or “the cat’s pajamas” would be better analogues of “the dog’s bollocks”

      2. Surely “brick shithouse” means large i.e. “he’s built like s brick shithouse”.

      3. “Built like a brick shithouse” is an expression that has been used in Oz for many a long year.

      4. @ Mark White

        Brick shithouse doesn’t necessarily mean large. It’s something/someone with a sturdy appearance.

    2. I’ve heard a story that links “the dog’s bollocks” with the phrase “bog standard” (meaning the opposite, unimpressive or pedestrian).

      It says that in the early days of Meccano (a British engineering constructor kit for kids – overwhelmingly boys, of course, in those days) only two selections of components were available, which were listed as “box, standard” and “box, deluxe”. Boys being boys, they slurred the first and deliberately Malapropised the second to introduce rude words. (“Bog” being a slightly rude word for “toilet”.)

      I’m not sure I believe the story. I think I heard It on QI, a TV quiz show of Quite Interesting facts. QI admits that its facts are not totally reliable. They sometimes dock contestants marks for repeating “facts” that they heard in previous series of QI which are no longer regarded as true. They even occasionally report on the “decay rate” of QI facts!

  7. “Mighty England” and “Call bollocks” are written by an American. Although since it will only be read by Americans accuracy is presumably irrelevant in this case.
    Also I would never ever say “my arse” to my mum.

  8. “My arse” is fairly acceptable in the UK… here’s a load of edited together “my arses” from Jim Royle, patriarch of BBC TV comedy The Royle Family, who spent most of their time in front of the telly: (“uni-bloody-versity my arse”, to pick up on a previous post, is one of them. “Bidet my arse” another). More on the show here.

    Even in the 1960s, telly ventriloquist Ray Alan had his drunk puppet Lord Charles say “you silly arse!” without any shock value.

    1. Lord Charles, who talked “awfully far back”, as we used to say, was actually saying “you silly ass” (as in “donkey”). The “toffs” would pronounce “grass” and “bath” in the same way making them sound like “barth” and “grarss” and the whole hook of LC revolved around his being a posh drunk!

      Back in the day people would have recognised this immediately, given that they were exposed daily to (Tory) politicians, members of the House of Lords, intellectuals, newsreaders, the royals and bank directors, which meant that they knew precisely what LC was saying and weren’t shocked. We were all so innocent back then!

      Still prefer “bum” 😉

      1. Indeed. Edith Sitwell, in her own recording of her poems for William Walton’s Facade, rhymes ass with grass and pass. (When versions of this work were compared on BBC Radio 3 many years ago, the only other version that rhymed them had an American reciter, but he used a short ‘a’ sound throughout.)

        I remember Lord Charles’s catchphrase, and I’m sure the BBC would never allow anyone to say “arse” at a time I was watching TV, but “ass” with a long ‘a’ was permitted.

        But, of course, part of the joke was he was getting away with apparently saying a rude word.

        Incidentally, I say barth and grarss, but I was born in London – not a posh part though. It’s as much part of the cockney accent as the toff accent.

  9. I had never heard the chant, “Mighty, mighty England” or anywhere else, but I only ever see the footy/footie on the telly and you can’t usually hear what’s being chanted. “Mighty? My arse!” (with scorn) seems something young adults might say, but not a child of the age pictured. That photo, by the way, is totally pointless. It could be any upset child, anywhere, any time! “My arse!” was used a lot by the father in ‘The Royle Family’, I seem to remember from the time my brother-in-law insisted on watching the Christmas Day episode. The ‘call bollocks on’ phrase doesn’t seem right, either. Brits could definitely say ‘Brexit is bollocks!’ If only they had.

    1. Unfortunately Caroline Aherne, star and co-writer of The Royle Family, died a couple of days ago aged 52.

      1. Yes, I saw it on the news. She was the same age as me. I didn’t really watch anything she was in and didn’t know anything about her. She had already had cancer several times. Absolutely terrible, but she left a legacy of laughter and that’s a wonderful thing to be remembered for.

    2. The (highly ironically named) Liberal Democrats campaigned in the 2019 British general election on the slogan “Bollocks to Brexit”. The uncouth, anti-democratic, conniving, sef-righteous, hateful hypocrites were given a suitably rude response by the electorate. (I speak as a previous member of the party.)

  10. Random contributions…

    My first impression was also that it had been google translated. The misspelling of footie threw me off, I think.

    I’ve sung variants of “We are England. Mighty England.” at hundreds of football matches over the past 30 years where ‘England’ can be replaced with your local team’s name.

    “Call bollocks on…” is fairly common in my circles.

    Ray Allen’s dummy was very careful to say “You silly ass!” as I am sure he would not have been allowed to say “arse” on TV in the 60s.

    I’d never say “Arse” to my mum. Only rich people say “mummy”.

  11. The only phrase in common parlance which approaches “Mighty England”, a phrase I have never come across in 60 years, is “Merry England”.

  12. Ditto the above: I’ve never heard “mighty England” in 60 + yrs, though I don’t go to football matches. “Call bollocks” is a US attempt at Englishness. “My arse” rose to prominence recently as a result of a tv sitcom. “Mummy” is used by pre-school aged kids.

    The wonderful distinction between “bollocks” and “the dog’s bollocks” is best explained during a car chase in “51st State”, featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Carlyle”.

    I always understood that the dog’s bollocks was a printers’ term, used to describe the :- punctuation.

  13. I wouldn’t know what they were on about in that headline. It’s a right Horlicks! The sub heading feels like American idiom, including the neat “Footy flop” in putting the two words together like that.

    Like others, I didn’t know of any “Mighty England” phrase or football chant but I’ve just found ‘ “The Mighty, Mighty England (Black and White) T-Shirt: A black and white montage of classic English iconography, interspersed with cricketing symbolism… The banner underneath reads “the mighty, mighty England” in homage to the Barmy Army song.’

    To clarify, cricket has a supporters’ group called “England’s Barmy Army” but the Barmy Army song chant was a football song:
    Wiki: ‘ “Barmy Army” was a football chant sung by fans at many grounds, originally sung at Hillsborough by Sheffield Wednesday in the early 1980s. This was because Howard Wilkinson, Sergeant Wilko, was manager at the time, and Sergeant Bilko’s Barmy Army (shown on British TV at the time) inspired the chant, “Sergeant Wilko’s Barmy Army”. Older fans may actually remember that it was originally sung 6 years earlier when Jack Charlton took charge and said that Wednesday’s fans must be barmy to travel to an away match. The chant therefore originated as ‘Jackie Charlton’s Barmy Army’. The chant moved up to Leeds in 1988 when Wilkinson moved to Leeds United. In conjunction with the increasing appearance of English football shirts at cricket grounds in the early 1990s, the song’s repetitive cry of “Barmy Army, Barmy Army, Barmy Army” transferred to domestic cricket arenas at Old Trafford and Headingley. It was particularly apparent during the 1993 Ashes tour.’

    1. If you Google “Sergeant Bilko’s Barmy Army” there are only six live links all of which reference the wikipedia article.Might be one of Ernie’s scams.The Phil Silvers Show was being shown at the time on the BBC .Perhaps it was retitled for Yorkshire.

  14. Over 17 million Brits may have said “Bollocks to the EU”, but there were many celebrating the defeat of the plucky little North Atlantic island nation by Iceland, notably the Wales team:

  15. Damn, can we do anything right for you guys, lol. 🙂 I don’t want to get overtly political, but as a Brit I find the current US coverage of Brexit somewhat curious given Americans should value the ideology of liberty. It’s been excessively negative and despondent (aka, naff) from most (albeit financially-aware) publications! Very odd. Unless they are panicking over the stock markets (probably).

    Brexit certainly isn’t considered bollox by the majority of Brits or we wouldn’t have voted for it! Nice to see the US acknowledging our fine language etiquette though! I hope to hear ‘bollocks’ used from New York to San Francisco in the future! 😀

  16. That front page is a “dog’s dinner” (not “breakfast”). The syntax is a complete mess and doesn’t make sense to my English eyes. The inclusion of “mummy” is just bizarre. Whoever composed that abomination has lifted some British slang but with zero understanding of how to use it.

  17. Why is no one pointing out the neither arse or bollocks would ever be used in the full term here in UK in a public newspaper article or magazine as both are considered SWEAR WORDS? You would see ar*e or b*llocks not the full word as these are the same for sensoring purposes as shit or fuck. The American use of the would ass for your gluteous maximus (actually another word for a mule or half horse half donkey hybrid) cannot be compared to arse much the same as the French merde or the German scheisse are more like saying crap not shit. And bollocks is another word for balls or testicles. Neither arse or bollocks should be said as a child in front of your mum, gram or a teacher!!

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