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6. Elias Genesis of Sport as a Sociological Problem

6. Elias Genesis of Sport as a Sociological Problem - Sport...

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! ' I I' 3 The Genesis of Sport as a Sociological Problem Norbert Elias I Many types of sports which today are played in a more or less identical manner all over the world originated in England. 1 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 another. 3 That 'sport' - the social datum as well as the word - was initially a Sport as a Sociological Problem 127 s~r~nger in other countries can be shown from many examples. The tImmg ?f 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". ,4 In 1844 another Germa~ author wrote with regard to the term 'sports', 'we haye no word for this and are almost forced to introduce it into our language. ,5 The diffusion of the Eng!lsh term 'sport' as an expression which German people could understand as a. matter of course continued to be slow up to the 185Qs. It 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 "d~sport", pleasure, diversion ... ' It 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- tier.
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