England football manager Fabio Capello has recently come under criticism for his poor grasp of English despite being in the job for over 3 years, but this week he has hit back, claiming he requires “maximum 100 words” to communicate tactics to the England footballers. This comment has been seized on by the English media, keen to criticise the error-prone manager, but also amused at what this tells us about the size of the average English footballer’s vocabulary.
But is Capello’s statement so absurd? Well, as many have pointed out, you need to know far more than 100 words to communicate effectively in English – just the most basic words such as the, to, be, of, in etc amount to far more than that. But let’s be generous to Capello: let’s assume he was not including these words, sometimes referred to as function words, in his putative 100. Let’s assume that in fact he was referring only to the content words, those nouns, verbs and adjectives that provide the meat on the bones of communication. Would it really be possible to talk football with only 100 of these? Read the rest of this entry ?