We have the stadia, he has the mafia

« previous post | next post »

David Cameron, the UK prime minister, spent the day before yesterday in Zurich with two high-power celebs, Prince William and the soccer star David Beckham, lobbying to get the World Cup soccer tournament hosted in Britain in 2018. Said Cameron: "We have got the stadia, we have got the facilities…", and I guess I was thinking, "You can take the boy out of Eton but you can't take the Eton out of the boy." I wondered how his Latinism would go down with the officials of the famously corrupt International Federation of Association Football (FIFA).

On the morphological front, although the word stadium does take either the Latin plural or the regular English one (see The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, page 1592), stadia (with one occurrence in the Wall Street Journal corpus despite its subeditor pickiness) is massively less common than stadiums (85 WSJ corpus occurrences). In terms of the raw counts of pages returned by Google, we have:

both stadiums 53,100
both stadia 3,300
all the stadiums     878,000
all the stadia 60,400

Actually the figures for stadia are even smaller, because a small number of the hits (as pointed out to me by W. Kiernan) involve a technical term in land surveying, stadia hairs, denoting the two secondary horizontal cross-hairs in the telescope of a surveyor's transit, above and below the central horizontal cross-hair, which are used to optically measure distances to an elevation rod. This seems to be true, though both stadia hairs gets only about 10 hits.

The main thing, of course, is the register and style difference: there is a real risk that saying "stadia" will make you seem stuck-up and snobbish.

In the end, neither the stadiums nor the lobbying by Prince William of Wales and Prince David of Manchester United and the Los Angeles Galaxy counted for anything at all. The UK got just two votes (out of a possible 22) from FIFA, some of whose officials have grown fat on bribes (Nicolas Leoz, Issa Hayatou and Ricardo Teixeira were exposed for taking gigantic bribes in a BBC TV program broadcast just before the doomed Zurich mission by the prime minister, but all three remained on the list of voters who downed the UK bid to host the tournament).

Vladimir Putin didn't even bother to turn up in Zurich to beg or cajole. He just stayed in Russia to work — like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin in the USA — on condemning recent Wikileaks allegations, such as the charge that he is the boss of a mafia state.

We have the stadia, he has the mafia.

Comments are closed, because if you imagine I am going to risk the violence of a discussion involving plural inflection, linguistic variation, the Wall Street Journal, corpus linguistics, Latin, Eton, snobbery, soccer, Davids Beckham and Cameron, Prince William, FIFA, corruption, bribery, the BBC, Vladimir Putin, Wikileaks, the Russian mafia, Mike Huckabee, and Sarah Palin, you must be absolutely out of your tiny mind. I will be spending the weekend hunkered down in hiding with Julian Assange at a secret location outside London, avoiding the many forces around the world who would like to hunt down Language Log writers and kill them for daring to speak out on irregular plurals and other morphological and syntactic controversies.

Comments are closed.