Many types of sports which today are played in a more or less identical
manner all over the world originated in England.
They spread from
there to other countries mainly in the second half of the nineteenth and'
first half of the twentieth centuries. Football, in the form which became
known in England as 'Association Football' or, by a popular abbrevi-
ation, as 'soccer', was one of them. Horse-racing, wrestling, boxing,
tennis, fox-hunting, rowing, croquet and athletics were others. But
none of the others was quite as widely and, in many cases, quite as
rapidly adopted and absorbed by other countries as their own as the
soccer type offootball. Nor did they enjoy quite as much popularity.2
The English term 'sport', too, was widely adopted by other countries
as a generic term for this specific type of pastimes. That 'sports', the
specific type of English pastimes which spread to many other countries
mainly between 1850 and 1950, had certain distinguishing cl1aracter-
istics in common which justified their designation as such, namely as
'sports', has probably been noted more in other countries than in
England itself. A German commentator wrote in 1936:
As is well known, England was the cradle and the loving 'mother' of
sport . . . It appears that English technical terms referring to this field
might become the common possession of all nations in the same way as
Italian technical terms in the field of music. It is probably rare that a
piece of culture has migrated with so few changes from one country to
That 'sport' - the social datum as well as the word - was initially a
Sport as a Sociological Problem
in other countries can be shown from many examples. The
a process of diffusion and adoption is always a significant
datum m th.e conte;"t Of. a sociological diagnosis. Thus in Germany in
1810, an anstocratIc wnter who knew England was still able to say
"'Sport" is as untranslatable as "gentleman".
In 1844 another
author wrote with regard to the term 'sports', 'we haye no word for this
and are almost forced to introduce it into our language.
of the Eng!lsh term 'sport' as an expression which German people
could understand as
matter of course continued to be slow up to the
gradually gamed momentum in conjunction with the increase
of sports activities themselves. Finally, in the twentieth century 'Sport'
became fully established as a German word.
In France, the
Larousse du XIXieme Siecle
characterized the term
'sport' thus: 'Sport - sportt - English word formed from the old French
complained about the impor-
tatIOn of such terms 'which obviously corrupt our language but we have
no customs barriers in order to prohibit their importation at the fron-