Tuesday, 4 March 2008

The Language of Football: Part 5


As in, “Titus Bramble has been dispossessed on the edge of his own area.”

I always thought that the word dispossessed referred to a class, typically human beings, that were no longer owned, nor taken responsibility for, by the system in question’s patriarchs; for example, a society’s homeless population. Martin Luther King’s reference to “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses...” always came to mind. Indeed, the OED says that the dispossessed are people who have been deprived of land or property, which is consistent with this idea: without land or property, society has effectively disowned you.

Rather more prosaically, football commentators routinely employ it to mean someone who’s had the ball taken off them. It is not difficult to imagine the rather ungainly path of reasoning that might lead to this conceit:

1. you possess something
2. me take it away
3. you dispossessed!

I found that the OED does actually dignify this usage with an entry these days. However, I think that it’s more the weight of relentless, bloody-minded, usage than literary merit that has forced the dictionary compilers’ hands here.

So, you decide which implementation of dispossessed to champion: Martin Luther King’s, or Martin Tyler’s.

Potential future developments:
“This game is suffering from a poverty of entertainment.”
“Chelsea can’t buy a goal; three points are going begging here.”
“Peter Kenyon needs to remind them that charity begins at home.”
“Wright-Phillips has been sent off – he’s been effectively disenfranchised.”


American Fulham Fan said...

Perhaps Martin Luther King uttered that string of words at some point, but the quote's source is poet Emma Lazarus. The phrase is engraved on the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.

smfifteen said...

Hello AFF. Yes, I am aware of the engraving, and the original source. MLK quoted it in a speech at the National Cathedral, Washington, DC, 31 March 1968.