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GRE Vocab Wednesday: World Cup Vocabulary

For the next month, well over a billion people will tune in to watch a bunch of fleet-footed men chase after a tiny white orb. Yep, it’s World Cup Time, and in honor of this truly global event, I have some GRE vocabulary.

Before I launch into the words, I want to make a quick note: to avoid any ambiguity, I’ll be using the word ‘soccer’ not the word ‘football’. For my American audience football means only one thing, and it’s not currently taking place in Brazil. I know, I know, the rest of the world uses the term ‘football’, but here, on Vocab Wednesday, unambiguity wins the day.

Indefatigable

For most people, even running after a ball for 30 meters seems tiring. But when you are a soccer player, you have to relentlessly chase after the ball for 90 minutes non-stop (okay, there is a break in between, but still). To be indefatigable means to never tire, and to be keep pushing your limits. Whether on the soccer pitch or in the world in general, the indefatigable person just keeps going and going (sort of like the Energizer Bunny, if you remember 90’s advertising campaigns).

In the World Cup, it is often the team that is indefatigable and not the team that has the big name players goes on to win. This phenomenon was very much on display when South Korea advanced to the semi-finals in the 2002 World Cup. The team consisted of few, if any, international star players, yet through sheer tenacity and indefatigability (the players ran down every single ball), they were able to beat such tournament stalwarts as Italy and Spain.

Root-wise this is highly confusing word, since the ‘in-‘ means not and the ‘de-‘ means away from. Fatigue, of course, means tired, so we have “not away from tired”, which would mean tired (yes, English can be a kooky language). As indefatigable vocab learners, though, you won’t let this logical inconsistency prevent you from knowing the word.

Insuperable

Usually paired with words such as obstacle, difficulty, etc., insuperable describes something that impossible to achieve. Not some merely difficult challenging (summiting Mt. Everest) but something is downright impossible (summiting Mt. Everest on ice skates).

Down 3-0 at half-time, and down red-carded players, Portugal faced insuperable difficulties against an indefatigable German side–difficulties that not even its star, Christiano Rinaldo, could overcome.

soccer team celebrating in a huddle

Photo by Miquel C.

Ebullience

When a team scores a goal in the World Cup, its fans don’t just celebrate with high-fives; they erupt with fervor verging on the Vesuvian. Even when a team hasn’t scored but one of its players has made a great play, there is an ebullience in the air, be it at the soccer stadium or the local pub. Ebullience means great cheer and enthusiasm. It doesn’t mean complete chaos, but it connotes high enthusiasm. Ebullient can also relate to the individual — one who is full of zeal and enthusiasm.

Pandemonium

While ebullience expresses general merriment, pandemonium implies utter chaos. Witness the home fans of whoever wins the 2014 World Cup. People in that country will take to the streets, waving flags, lighting stuff on fire, and turning over cars.

In other words, you might not want to be traveling in that country at the time — unless you don’t mind be swept away in the pandemonium.

Interestingly, this word comes from Milton’s Paradise Lost, a massive poem from the 17th century, concerning the fall of Man. Satan figured prominently, so it should not be surprising that Satan’s pad, specifically his palace in the middle of Hell, was called pandemonium. ‘Pan-‘ means all; ‘demon’ should be pretty clear. Today the word doesn’t have such infernal connotations, but instead describes sheer chaos.
soccer player in red dribbling the ball

Photo by Doha Stadium Plus Qatar

Turncoat

This is an interesting word that on the surface of it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the World Cup. However, I heard one of the ABC sportscasters actually use this word to describe one of the Spanish players, Diego Costa.

Costa, though Brazilian, had lived in Spain for enough years to qualify as a member of its team. Instead of donning the bright yellow Brazilian colors, he chose the fiery red of the former World Champions. A turncoat is one who is a traitor to his country. Perhaps a harsh word to describe the talented Costa, unless you are Brazilian.

 

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