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Saturday, December 13, 2014

What Ever Happened to "Kicksoccer" or "Kick Soccer"?

When I was growing up -- in the 1960s and 1970s -- we played a game called "kick soccer" or maybe "kicksoccer."  It was like baseball or softball, but instead of hitting a little ball with a bat, we kicked a bigger ball with our feet.  The best balls were the soccer-ball sized red rubber balls that only schools seemed to have in those days.  We knew about "soccer," but this was America, so we didn't play it.  Ever.  We understood that kicksoccer was something of a misnomer, but that's what we called it.  I wish I could remember my last game of kicksoccer.  It might have been when I was in the sixth grade.  And my first game was probably in the neighborhood when I was five or younger, before I even started kindergarten.

My point is that in the area where I grew up, EVERYBODY called the game "kicksoccer" or "kick soccer."  If adults heard us call it that, they never corrected us.

After sixth grade, I went to a different school, and don't remember ever playing -- or saying -- "kick soccer" again.  The game "kickball" never came up either.

Many years later, I encountered the game again, except that everybody called it "kickball."  If anyone had called it that back when I was growing up, they would have been thrown off the playground.  But that seems to be what everyone calls it now.  Yes, it's more accurate and less confusing, but it just doesn't sound as cool.

At the time, the word "sock" was more commonly used to mean "hit" than it is today, and maybe that was part of the attraction of the "kicksoccer" name.

And it seems that other people of my generation remember playing "kickball" and not "kicksoccer."

Wikipedia goes through the history of "kickball" here:  Apparently it was invented around 1917 by someone named Nicholas Seuss in Cincinnati, and it was originally called "kick balls."  And now I realize why I hate the name "kickball" or "kick ball" so much.  It's a bit better than "kick balls," but it still sounds pretty painful to me.

I wrote this post after doing extensive googling on "kick soccer" and not finding anything except soccer-related stuff.  Just as I was finishing, I decided to google "kicksoccer."  And thereby proved to myself that I'm not crazy.  In all of Google Books (millions upon millions of scanned books) there are two references to "kicksoccer" as another name for kickball.  One appears on p. 185 of  Barrie, Thorne, Gender play: girls and boys in school (1993).  The other appears on in the CAHPER Journal, volume 52, p. 7 (1986) (where CAHPER is "Canadian Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation."

But on the web itself, as far as I can tell, there is only one reference to "kicksoccer" as meaning kickball: somebody on July 25, 2011 is proposing kickball in the park for their meetup group and says "Remember kickball?  Or as my hood used to call it kicksoccer."

As of this writing, this blog is the fourth place on the whole internet -- including Google Books -- that uses the word "kick soccer" or "kicksoccer" to refer to what is now known as "kickball."

I wonder how the name change came about.  I'm sure they call it kickball at my old school now.  Maybe some school bureaucrat decided that kids would get confused by "kicksoccer" given the growing popularity of "soccer" in the U.S., and launched a campaign among adults to get the kids to stop calling it kicksoccer.  And then it spread from school to school, and the word "kicksoccer" was eradicated.  Who knows.  But whatever the reason, it was totally misguided (like I said, we knew about soccer, and weren't confused), and a good name for a great game has now been replaced by a bad one.

There is a bit of a resurgence of "kickball" going on right now among adults; I even played a game myself a few years ago, and have passed up a few other opportunities.  So far, I have just gone with the flow and kept my thoughts on the name "kicksoccer" to myself.  But next time I play, I'm going to work on getting the name changed.  It won't be easy, but if others who remember "kicksoccer" feel the same way, maybe we can work together to bring the name back.

So if you remember "kicksoccer," I'd love to hear from you -- just leave an anonymous comment giving the time period and location of that usage.  (I'm not doing that myself, sorry, just because I don't like putting personal information into this blog).

Grammar note:  As of this writing, the usage "whatever happened to" garners 8,460,000 google hits, whereas the usage "what ever happened to" garners only 970,000 hits.  Somebody flatly asked the question of which was correct here, but didn't get a very clear answer from any of the respondents. And here the question was only asked -- and never answered -- at the end of a chain in which "what ever" was strongly discouraged.  But the answer comes from the dictionary definition of whatever:

Full Definition of WHATEVER
a :  any … that :  all … that <buy peace … on whatever terms could be obtained — C. S. Forester>
b :  no matter what <money, in whatever hands, will confer power — Samuel Johnson>

:  of any kind at all —used after the substantive it modifies with any or with an expressed or implied negative <in any order whatever — W. G. Moulton> <no food whatever>

Just because "what" and "ever" appear next to each other in the sentence that you are constructing does not mean you're using the word "whatever."

The basic question is "what happened to kicksoccer"; "ever" is added for emphasis, perhaps to indicate that "kicksoccer" is truly gone, or perhaps to indicate that we don't know when or why it disappeared.  None of the definitions of "whatever" make sense in this context.

So the correct phrase is "what ever happened to" NOT "whatever happened to."  Yes, in this case, 8.6 million google hits are wrong.  And this might be the only place on the web that provides a clear answer.

The same logic applies to "what ever were you thinking" and "whatever were you thinking" -- there, the question is "what were you thinking" and "ever" is added for emphasis.  Interestingly, on that one, most of the internet is getting it right -- 585,000 google hits for "what ever were you thinking" vs. 440,000 for "what ever were you thinking."

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