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Foul Play


Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today’s idiom isn’t a nice one - but it’s one that you will often see and hear in the media. It’s the term foul play. Foul play can be defined as illegal activity or a violation of rules.
You will often see the term
foul play used in reference to violent crimes or murders. It’s not uncommon to read in newspapers that the police suspect foul play in connection with someone’s death or disappearance, i.e. that illegal or criminal forces were involved in these happenings. Look at these news headlines from 2009 to see how this idiom can be used:

Michael Jackson’s Father Fears Foul Play in Singer’s Death
-abcnews.go.com, July 10 2009, Chris Connelly, Monica Escobedo, Sabina Ghebremedhin
Michael Jackson autopsy: no foul play
-euronews.net, June 26 2009

foul play was involved in Michael Jackson’s death or not is an issue that the courts are currently trying to determine.

Foul play
is also often used in reference to sports or games. Athletes or players who break the rules and play unfairly are said to engage in foul play. Look at these headlines:

Soccer player jailed for foul play
-independent.co.uk, October 12 1995, Richard Brennan
No Excuse for Ducks’ Foul Play
-articles.latimes.com, December 20 1997, Elliott Teaford

Can you think of any memorable examples of
foul play in sports? Here is a good example:

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