Team Rubbish makes a striking claim

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A recent Daily Beast spamletter featured an intriguing teaser:

The headline made me think that a faction of the Duchess of Cornwall's staff, known as "Team Rubbish", had made a startling accusation. The next sentence (and the linked article) set me straight.

So "Team Rubbish" is a classic Crash Blossom, caused as usual by noun/verb ambiguities. And in this case there's an added UK/US dimension: rubbish as a verb is mostly a British thing, as is the use of plural verb agreement with a singular subject that refers to a group.

My reaction was also primed by the recent news focus on Trumpworld's "Team Normal" / "Team Crazy" opposition.

During the committee’s third hearing earlier this month, testimony established that — at least in the Trump campaign’s response to losing the election — there were two opposing camps: “Team Normal” and “Team Crazy.”

I believe that the "Team X" / "Team Y" construction began with the "Team Edward" / "Team Jacob" opposition among fans of the Twilight Saga, but commenters may be able to identify an earlier history.

Update — the Berkeley Parser went down the same garden path that I did:

Replacing rubbish with deny or rubbishes yields the intended structure:

Update 7/27/2022 — I should have checked the OED, which gives sense 6.e. for team, glossed

colloquial. With postmodifying word or words. Used to form the name of a real or notional group which supports or likes the person or thing indicated.
Frequently in situations where two or more such groups are (notionally) in opposition to each other.
[Probably after the names of certain national sports teams (as e.g. Team GB, Team USA).]

and with citations going back to 1990:

1990 H. Das Org. Theory Canad. Applic. viii. 290 He constantly demanded: ‘Are you on team B or team P?’ Team B, he explained, stood for breaking even and team P for making a profit.
2005 Ottawa Citizen (Nexis) 1 Dec. e1 I casually expressed my support for Jennifer Aniston while watching the former Friends star being interviewed on CNN. ‘Oh my God,’ hissed my wife Lucie, who was sitting next to me on the sofa. ‘You're Team Aniston!’… ‘Oh my God,’ I said finally. ‘You're Team Jolie.’
2009 Daily Record (Glasgow) (Nexis) 19 Nov. 48 Bella has now been saved by both a vampire and a werewolf and there is hot debate on the internet on which team fans are on—Team Jacob or Team Edward.
2015 @jaureguiswagger 1 July in (O.E.D. Archive) Are you team coffee or team tea? I prefer tea.


  1. mollymooly said,

    July 23, 2022 @ 6:19 am

    Headline later revised to "Camila Parker Bowles' Team Dispute Claim She Is Royal Racist" and then "Camilla’s Team Scoffs at Claims She Is the Royal Racist".

    Another US/UK difference is the capitalization of words in the headline. "Camilla's team rubbish claims she is the royal racist" would parse easier.

  2. Cervantes said,

    July 23, 2022 @ 7:13 am

    In the U.S. it would be Team Trash. Ambiguity is only because it's in headline case, since in sentence case "team rubbish" (or trash) would not be capitalized.

    [(myl) The British-style collective-noun verb agreement also plays a role, as the parser outputs indicate.]

  3. Chris Button said,

    July 23, 2022 @ 8:40 am

    Yes, “Camilla’s team rubbish claims she is the royal racist” in sentence case is not open to any real ambiguity in British English.

  4. John Swindle said,

    July 23, 2022 @ 12:05 pm

    Would changing it to “Camilla’s Team Rubbish Claim She is the Royal Racist” help to make it a little more ambiguous in British English?

  5. Terry K. said,

    July 23, 2022 @ 12:43 pm

    Just now I read that headline and for a brief moment though "What's rubbish claiming?"

  6. DaveK said,

    July 23, 2022 @ 7:49 pm

    I am certain that the “Team ____” construction was around before the Twilight movies. In the early 1990’s, the Xerox Corporation used to answer their phones (in the US at least) with a chirpy “Team Xerox!” . In fact the first usage I can recall is in the 1979 movie Breaking Away, where a professional bike racing team from Italy is named Team Cinzano. At the time I just thought it was a weird phrasing that was probably calqued from Italian.

    [(myl) There are plenty of kinds of post-modified noun phrases in English, both native (Lake Erie, Route 95) and influenced by Romance-language models (Café Lift). Examples like Team Xerox, as you observe, are of the second kind.]

  7. chris said,

    July 23, 2022 @ 9:32 pm

    It's interesting that Americans have so much trouble picking up on the idea of Brits verbing "rubbish" when we verb "trash" in a very similar way.

    Truly, verbing weirds language.

  8. Chris Partridge said,

    July 24, 2022 @ 2:36 am

    My favourite WW2 headline:
    British Push Bottles Up Germans

  9. Bloix said,

    July 24, 2022 @ 11:47 am

    On the Team ___ construction:

    From the Bulletin of the State Board of Education, Virginia July 1924 (Course of Study, High Schools of Virginia, Physical Education), at 25:
    Unequal Numbers on Each Team. Team Blue composed of twelve pupils and Team Red composed of eight pupils are scheduled for the running broad jump…

  10. maidhc said,

    July 25, 2022 @ 12:21 am

    We have two here: Team Rubbish and Team Recycling. Each has their own truck and set of bins.

  11. KeithB said,

    July 25, 2022 @ 7:34 am

    NPR talked about a mondegreen today. They were talking to the Swedish pop star Jens Lekman and his song "Maple Leaves" is how he heard his girlfriend say "just make believe".

  12. Daniel Barkalow said,

    July 25, 2022 @ 3:44 pm

    The villains in Pokemon were "Team Rocket" (in the 1998 English translation). I assume Camilla's Team Rubbish are a similar faction who just aren't very skillful.

    (This is reinforced by the recent UK-inspired Pokemon game actually having an enemy faction based on football hooliganism stereotypes.)

  13. Philip Anderson said,

    July 27, 2022 @ 7:30 am

    After reading the noun phrase “Camilla’s Team”, I’m expecting a verb, so “Rubbish” matches for me.

    It’s odd that the Berkeley Parser accepts “deny” as a singular verb, and “rubbishes” as a verb, but not “rubbish” as a singular verb. Perhaps because “deny” did not fit as a noun. While a plain Team Deny sounds off, Downing Street has been operating as Team Deny Everything for a while.

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