Sports headlines around the Spanish-speaking world this week proclaim Barcelona soccer star Lionel Messi’s “78 gritos” (literally, 78 shouts) so far this year.
These gritos, it’s understood, are gritos de gol,shouts of celebration after scoring. With the pair he netted Nov. 11 against Mallorca, the brilliant Argentine surpassed the record set by “O Rei Pelé” (King Pelé, a phrase almost always used in Portuguese), the immortal Brazilian’s 75 goals in calendar year 1958. He added two more against Zaragoza on Nov. 17.
Lio has nine games left to pursue Gerd Müller’s all-time mark of 85 (set in 1972).
Like “head” (of cattle), this grito is what linguists call a metonymy: a thing (a goal) named by one of its parts (the celebration afterwards).
American English can’t quite convey the emotion and frenzy around the special, infrequent occurrence that is a goal in soccer. “Shout” and “celebration” don’t work in this context. Are we doomed to the blandly literal “goal”?
The language comes alive, on the other hand, to name baseball’s home run: “homer”, “dinger”, “tater” (potato), “round tripper”, and “four bagger”, to name just a few.
Detroit Tigers star Miguel Cabrera connects for one of his 44 home runs of the 2012 campaign. The Venezuelan slugger’s epic season earned him the Triple Crown (led league in home runs, RBI, and batting average), something no player had achieved since 1967.
Now that’s a richness, a lushness of vocabulary, that can stand toe-to-toe with Spanish’s lexicon of the goal, with its tanto (score), golazo (brilliant goal), pepa (pip or seed), pepino (cucumber), pepinillo (pickle), and on and on. And let’s not forget grito!¡Buenas palabras!
Copyright ©2012 Pablo J. Davis. All Rights Reserved.
This essay was originally written for the 25 Nov. 2012 edition of La Prensa Latina (Memphis, Tennessee), as part of the weekly column “Mysteries & Enigmas of Translation” along with its Spanish-language version.