Hockey in Punjabi

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Hockey is not a popular sport in the Punjab but it is THE sport in Canada, which now has a large Punjabi population. An interesting example of cultural integration is the fact that CBC Sports now has hockey commentary in Punjabi.


  1. Dan Lufkin said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 2:39 pm

    I wonder whether the popularity of field hockey in Pakistan has an aura effect on the ice persuasion.

  2. TonyK said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 2:40 pm

    Hockey is an enormously popular sport in India, just as in Canada. Of course 'hockey' means 'field hockey' there, and not 'ice hockey', so perhaps you should make your meaning clear before baffling too many of your Punjabi readers.

  3. MM said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 2:41 pm

    I was going to say just what Dan and TonyK said! (Hi Dan!)

  4. Ralph Hickok said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

    India has won 8 Olympic Gold Medals in field and Pakistan has won 2.

  5. Ralph Hickok said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

    field hockey, that is

  6. TonyK said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

    As for whether Punjab belongs to India or Pakistan: the province of Punjab belongs to India, and the province of West Punjab belongs to Pakistan. But they all play hockey.

  7. J. W. Brewer said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

    It would be interesting to know whether Mr. Singh adapts existing Punjabi field hockey jargon to describe ice hockey, or calques English ice hockey jargon (to the extent it's different in English from field hockey jargon) over into Punjabi, or just uses English words with modified phonology, or what. Field hockey is not unpopular in parts of the northeastern U.S., but strictly as a girls' sport. In my entire youth I think I knew exactly one boy who was a field hockey enthusiast, and he was from an immigrant family surnamed Patel. (It being a small world, he then grew up to get a Ph.D. and do research that was worth mentioning on LL:

  8. TonyK said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

    As for whether Punjab belongs to India or Pakistan: both countries have provinces called Punjab. But the Indians call the Pakistani province West Punjab. To me, as a European, Macedonia springs to mind.

  9. TonyK said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

    That was meant to be an edit! Don't tell me I can't edit? Oh well, I've looked stupider and survived.

  10. Dw said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 3:34 pm

    The unadorned word "hockey" generally refers to field hockey in the non-North American English-speaking world. When I saw the opening sentence of this article, I thought it was some kind of joke.

    [(myl) As always, the Language Log customer relations department stands ready to refund double your subscription fees in case of less than full satisfaction. Please mind the step on your way out.]

  11. Kat Tancock said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

    I have watched Hockey Night in Punjabi for fun. (Ah, what a language geek.) The terms are definitely ice hockey terminology adapted from English. On a related note, there was recently a story in one of our newspapers about how multicultural the Canucks audience (in-stadium) has become over the past couple of decades. I guess hockey is hard to avoid in the great white north…

  12. Terry Collmann said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

    I wonder if Mr Poser would have said: "Football is not a popular sport in Spain …"

  13. NF said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

    As a Canadian and both a hockey player and enthusiast, I am fully aware of the great difference between field hockey and ice hockey. The two are hardly the same game, and almost none of the jargon is shared. Canadian ice hockey is popular among Punjabi and Pakistani teens because they are so eager to fit in and become local. Canadians love it.

  14. Bruce said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

    I assume the fact it's Vancouver that's playing has something to do with it; its suburb of Surrey has a huge Sikh population.

  15. Greg said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 5:23 pm

    There's a video of a mostly South Asian celebration after the Canucks won game 1 against Boston ( that features an improvised Punjabi couplet that was translated as "After many years of drought he finally brought along mango(s); he made a multitude of saves, may long live Luongo". Not knowing any Punjabi I'd love to know more about either the genre or the structure of the couplet. (Though sadly I doubt Luongo is have much praise poetry composed for him now)

  16. fev said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 6:46 pm

    Is it still hockey commentary if it doesn't have Don Cherry? Inquiring minds want to know.

  17. Ben said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 8:00 pm

    The Canucks' popularity with speakers of Punjabi is only helped by the fact that the team has a player, Manny Malhotra, whose father is from Lahore in the Punjab.

  18. Stuart said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 9:14 pm

    @Greg re the Panjabi couplet in that youtube. It's a variant of a verse from an old Panjabi folk song, baari barsi. Very catchy, and hearing it used in that context made me smile. It also illustrates the point about English terminology being imported into the Panjabi – the word used for "saves " IS "saves".

  19. Bill Poser said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 10:38 pm

    I'm well aware that in some countries "hockey" means "field hockey". However, as a North American writing in North America about a North American sports program, I think it is quite appropriate to use the term in its North American meaning. So, yes, I would not hesitate in this context to write that "football" is not popular in Pakistan, even though I am well aware that in quite a few languages including non-North American English "football" is the equivalent of "soccer", which is more than popular in Pakistan.

  20. Bill Poser said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 10:42 pm

    As an aside, in Carrier (the Athabascan language of this part of British Columbia) hockey, baseball, and billiards all have the same name, since all involve hitting something round around with a stick. I'm not sure if any Carrier speakers are aware of the existence of field hockey, but if they were, it would no doubt be given the same designation, distinguished, if necessary, by the addition of a phrase like "on grass".

  21. Bill Poser said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 10:54 pm

    With regard to the Sikh population of Surrey, it isn't just Surrey. There are 135,000 Sikhs in British Columbia, in various parts of the Lower Mainland, and even in the north. We have two Sikh temples here in Prince George. Sam Sullivan, mayor of Vancouver in 2006-2008, actually learned sufficient Punjabi to give speeches in it.

  22. ella said,

    June 10, 2011 @ 11:44 pm

    The Vancouver Canucks have had commentary in Punjabi for many years now. I imagine that the team making the Stanley Cup finals is what has brought this story extra attention right now. There are an awful lot of Punjabi speakers all across Canada, Sikh and otherwise. Punjabi is so widely spoken in the greater Vancouver area that it is not so unusual to find native English speaking Canadians there who can manage a few words. I'm in Montreal and I know how to say 'Ki haal ae?' (how are you?). I'm a total nerd tho.

  23. mollymooly said,

    June 11, 2011 @ 1:30 am

    However, as a North American writing in North America about a North American sports program, I think it is quite appropriate to use the term in its North American meaning.

    The nationality of the reader is at least as relevant as that of the author or topic. Depending on context, the burden of accommodation may lie with the author, the reader, or both.
    This being Language Log, the main benefit of mentioning the field/ice distinction in the OP would have been, not to avoid confusing the ignorant, but rather to forestall the flow of pedantic correctors.

  24. MM said,

    June 11, 2011 @ 3:17 am

    Correctors are pedantic by definition, I suppose.

  25. Eric said,

    June 11, 2011 @ 4:44 am

    Actually, Pakistan has a province of Punjab and India has a state.

  26. Eric said,

    June 11, 2011 @ 4:47 am

    I heard about shortly after the 2010 Grey Cup and it pretty much made my 2011.

  27. Xmun said,

    June 11, 2011 @ 9:52 am

    How soon can we expect to find "field polo" necessary, to distinguish it from "water polo"? Or "asphalt volleyball" to distinguish it from "beach volleyball"?

  28. Skullturf said,

    June 11, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

    When my brother moved from Canada to the UK, people making small talk would ask him, "I suppose the most popular sport in Canada is ice hockey?" and he would reply, "No, HOCKEY."

  29. Zythophile said,

    June 12, 2011 @ 9:42 am

    The point is, Bill, that if you write "Hockey is not a popular sport in the Punjab" you run the risk of looking, to at least the 109 million people who live in the two Punjabs, either (a) ignorant or (b) a North American linguistic imperialist. Or both. This is a forum that attracts readers from across the globe, and it is surely polite not to be ambiguous. If I say that the town where I live is the home of the oldest hockey club in the world, and I knew that my audience was going to include people from North America, I believe I would feel the need to disambiguate, in order not to confuse.

  30. army1987 said,

    June 12, 2011 @ 5:35 pm

    In Ireland, some people by football mean ‘association football’ and consider soccer to be an Americanism and others use football for Gaelic football and soccer for association football.

  31. RW said,

    June 13, 2011 @ 3:49 am

    I'm curious that you describe this as an example of cultural integration. It strikes me more as an example of cultural division – an acknowledgement, perhaps, that there is a large population of immigrants who haven't learned the language of their adopted country. I'd think that a common language is pretty much the very first requirement for any meaningful integration between populations so things that enforce language divisions must surely be bad for integration. Unless it's intended for the English speakers to learn Punjabi?

  32. Faldone said,

    June 13, 2011 @ 9:35 am

    I remember the time I was sitting in a bar listening in on a conversation between the customer sitting next to me and the bartender about a mutual friend who had been skiing. The conversation was slowly sliding off track and ended up in a complete train wreck before they discovered that one thought they were talking about snow skiing and the other thought they were talking about water skiing.

  33. Ellen K. said,

    June 13, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

    RW, there is a big difference between knowing enough of a language to be able to interact with speakers of it, versus knowing enough of the language to understand a sports broadcast well enough to listen to the commentary rather than ignoring it.

    And while surely you are right that cultural integration requires the ability to communicate, it doesn't mean that everyone in the immigrant group needs to know the language of their new country.

  34. cm said,

    June 14, 2011 @ 9:20 am

    In Ireland, some people by football mean ‘association football’ and consider soccer to be an Americanism

    Soccer is the term traditionally used in the Irish media so it is hard to see how anyone could consider it an Americanism.

  35. Jongseong Park said,

    June 14, 2011 @ 11:12 am

    Xmun: How soon can we expect to find "field polo" necessary, to distinguish it from "water polo"? Or "asphalt volleyball" to distinguish it from "beach volleyball"?

    For points of comparison you can track the terms field hockey, real tennis, team handball and long track speed skating (though handball is further complicated by the fact that the name is used for a completely unrelated set of games). Of these, only real tennis has been almost completely superseded by lawn tennis; the others are simply hockey, handball and speed skating for many people (though not for all, especially hockey, obviously).

    I think it's highly unlikely that people will start referring to water polo simply as polo in the near future. I think Beach volleyball has a marginally better chance, like short track speed skating.

  36. Just another Peter said,

    June 14, 2011 @ 7:55 pm

    In Australia there are two sports typically called "football" – Australian football and rugby league. There are occasional people who refer to other sports by that term, but you generally know someone means one of those two sports.

  37. TonyK said,

    June 15, 2011 @ 5:05 pm

    @Bill Poser: You seem to be claiming that you went into this with your eyes open. Was that just to rub half the world up the wrong way? Never mind, the ensuing discussion has been much more interesting than the OP!

  38. Tom said,

    June 16, 2011 @ 5:48 am

    @Just Another Peter: That's interesting. I'm used to 'football' being used for different sports but I've never heard rugby (league or union) referred to as anything but rugby. Would rugby union be called 'football' as well?

    On a more general note, if you go the IOC's page for ice hockey it is referred to as 'ice hockey' in most cases but there is an embedded video about Canada winning the 'Olympic Hockey Gold Medal Final'.

  39. Jeremy Wheeler said,

    June 20, 2011 @ 5:03 pm

    I am a bit taken aback. As a long-time reader of Language Log, and occasional sender-in-er of language curiosities, if I had read this entry and BP’s response elsewhere I’d be sending it to Language Log for it to be wittily dissected by the erudite bloggers here. I can, of course, quite understand the impatience that carping, going off topic, and so on, can cause. For example, if my only contributions to comments were to be reference to the Sports of Canada Act (1994) (S. 2. The game commonly known as ice hockey is hereby recognized and declared to be the national winter sport of Canada…), or listing statistics showing how often Canada has competed in the World Hockey Chapionships (and as I am not North American and I am not writing in North America about a North sport it is presumably not necessary to explain that I mean field hockey), that would be irritating. But it does seem to me that some interesting points have been missed. How about a discussion about what ’an interesting example of cultural integration’ might mean, in linguistic terms, for starters?

  40. Eric Vinyl said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 1:36 am

    @J. W. Brewer

    I wondered the same thing, and found out after a little googling (which then brought me back to this post).

    That article states: "Some terms are easily translatable from field hockey, so 'stick' is 'soti.' 'He shoots, he scores' became 'mareyaa shot, keeta goal.'

    "The real challenge was to find a word for 'puck.' The two settled on 'tikki' based on a puck-shaped potato appetizer. But they started calling it puck after a few games when viewers told them they understood what it was. Another term they struggled with was 'icing.' Ice in Punjabi is 'barf.' 'Barfed' the puck sounded ridiculous and so they stuck to the English term."

    Looking at Wikipedia it appears the anglicism icing has been borrowed into most other languages.

    You can find some Punjabi broadcasts on YouTube and even if you're a non-hockey fan, non-Punjabi speaker, you'll still recognize a lot of words.

    Apparently Telelatino has also aired games with commentary in Spanish and Italian, which I'm dying to hear someday.

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