Saturday, April 08, 2006

April 8: Baseball Metaphors Day

On this date in 1974, Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, eclipsing Babe Ruth's record that had stood for 47 years.

The figurative use of the term home run, meaning a great success, began to appear in English in the second half of the 20th century. Of all sports, baseball, America's pasttime, has been the most fertile ground for metaphors. In fact, you can do a virtual A-Z of baseball metaphors. Remember though, to qualify for the list the word or phrase must originate with baseball but be used to refer to situations outside of baseball.

For an excellent short story, entitled with and full of sports metaphors, see James Thurber's short story The Catbird Seat.

The following list is from Christine Ammer's book Southpaws & Sunday Punches (Plume, 1992).

ballpark figure
big league
box score
bush league
catbird seat
clean-up hitter
curve ball
foul ball
go for the fences
get to first base
go to bat for
hard ball
in the ballpark
inside baseball
left field
major league
no runs, no hits, no errors
off base
on deck
pitch hit
rain check
Tinker's chance
wait 'til next year
whole new ballgame

Today Challenge: Take Me Out to the Ball Game

The following are examples of metaphors that originated from sports other than baseball. See if you can identify the sport of origin for each metaphor. For a bonus challenge, see if you can use each in a sentence that makes no direct reference to the original sport. For example, I doubled my sales last year by sending each of my clients a birthday card; that idea was a home run! See the answers below the Quote of the Day.

1. across the board
2. below the belt
3. hot hand
4. hand-off
5. game, set, match
6. full court press
7. face-off
8. end run

Quote of the Day: Language is fossil poetry which is constantly being worked over for uses of speech. Our commonest words are worn-out metaphors. --James Bradstreet Greenough and George Lyman Kittredge

1. horse racing
2. boxing
3. basketball
4. football
5. tennis
6. basketball
7. hockey
8. football

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