This post is one of a series on ‘Germanisms in American English’ and should be read in conjunction with the introductory post here.
Foosball (table football/soccer)
Foosball, an American English term for table football, is different from other Germanisms in this series in that its German origin is fairly conspicuous. Even the Wikipedia article on table football begins as follows:
» Table football, commonly called fuzboll or foosball (as in the German Fußball ‘football’) and sometimes table soccer… «
Although Wikipedia points out that Fußball means football, it doesn’t mention the German word for table football: Tischfußball, which is commonly known in Germany as Kicker. This makes foosball (to denote table football) a kind of misnomer – a pseudo-Germanism, in much the same way that Handy (meaning mobile phone) is a pseudo-Anglicism in German.
According to the History section of the same Wikipedia article, table football was first patented in the UK in 1923, but didn’t really take off in the USA until…
» American soldier Lawrence Patterson re-introduced the game in the USA after playing it while stationed in Germany in the 1960s. He brought the first Bavarian-made table to the USA in 1962. Upon doing so, he trademarked the term ‘foosball’ in both the USA and Canada, and gave his table the name ‘Foosball Match’. «
To the best of my knowledge, the term foosball is not used in British English. The Oxford online dictionary classifies the term as ‘North American’. In the UK, I can only imagine it being called table football. And the reason why I can only imagine what it might be called there, and cannot say for sure, is that I’ve never seen the game played, or even heard it talked about in the UK. In fact the only times I encountered table football in my youth were on family holidays to France, where it is known as baby-foot.
Unlike many Germanisms in American English, foosball clearly cannot be attributed to late 19th/early 20th century immigration to the US. But as I made clear in my introductory post, ‘Germanisms need not be linked to a critical period of mass migration to warrant inclusion in this blog’.