In Russian, being a "fan" of a team is the same word as "being sick"

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Russian fans at the men's preliminary round ice hockey game between Russia and Slovakia at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. (Photo: REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

The English word "fan"—in the sports context—of course comes from "fanatic." But in Russian, the word is болельщик (bol'el'shchik); "to be a fan of" is "болеть за" (bol'et' za). And "болеть" is the same word as "to be sick for"; "болезнь" means "illness," and the related "боль" means "pain."

So if you're a fan of a sports team, in Russian, you're being sick for the team. This might be one reason that, other than for a few short years in my childhood, I've never been a fan.

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