October 28, 2004

World Champions???

Geoff Pullum's note on the victory of the Boston Red Sox in the World Series quotes Brian Weatherson's exclamation:

Boston is Champion of the World!!!
I'm sure I'll incite the undying hatred of American baseball fans, but this isn't true. The so-called "World Series" is a competition open only to teams from the United States and Canada. There is a lot more to the world than these two countries. To become world champions, a team would have to win a competition open to all of the countries in the world.

I have always supposed that everyone knew that the World Series was misnamed, but I'm beginning to wonder. Brian Weatherson is not alone in calling the winners of the World Series the world champions. Is this some sort of Whorfian effect? Do people believe that the winners of the World Series are world champions simply because the word "world" is , inappropriately, used?

Update: Readers point out that the US champions in football, hockey, and basketball are also commonly described as "world champions". One reader points out that this is particularly unreasonable in the case of basketball as this is a sport that is played in many countries and in which the US is not dominant, as evidenced by defeats of the US team in the Athens Olympics and in the real World Championship.

For those who were wondering, no, I do not seriously entertain the Whorfian explanation. I think its a combination of imperial arrogance and, in some sports, a long period of American dominance.

Posted by Bill Poser at October 28, 2004 12:56 PM