Have you ever heard of someone ‘batting a thousand’ without even touching a baseball bat in a lifetime? Or maybe of a teacher ‘throwing a curveball’ to a student during a biology lesson? Sports are part of our life. As English speakers, we are aware of that and we even include them in our everyday language.
These idioms have infinite origins and manage to survive such a long time they become part of the English language. The most impressive thing about them is that nowadays you may not even know how to play a sport or its rules. Still, you manage to understand what the speaker means when using them.
First of all, let’s go back to our first example at the beginning of this article. Batting a thousand balls is quite an achievement in baseball. When we say someone did so, we are referring to a continuing series of successful events. For example, if you get on an academic streak and you pass all of your exams, one might say you are ‘batting a thousand’, as you keep on succeeding. This idiom can be taken to any part of your life, and would still make sense even though you may not be a baseball fan!
Pitchers in baseball are in charge of throwing the ball towards the batter. Whatever the pitching style may be, the ball goes directly to its destination. If we want to present an idea at work, within a study group, or even to our family members or friends, we can introduce it by saying: ‘let me pitch an idea to you’. Of course, the receivers will never think of you literally throwing something at them!
This idiom may also be applicable to other sports as well as baseball. As we know, clubs belong to a league. Within that same league, the idea is to have an equivalent level among all teams for the sake of competitiveness. You wouldn’t expect a College League team to be at the same level as a Major League Baseball one! So, when we realize something is difficult to achieve, we tend to say it is ‘out of our league’. By this, we are expressing we are not prepared or fit to be successful at that particular event. Mind you, as in baseball, unexpected results can also occur in life!
There are different ways of pitching a ball in baseball. A curveball belongs to the ‘breaking balls’ category. The peculiarity of a curveball is that you never know where it will go in its trajectory. They are confusing and tend to take one by surprise. Batters need to be very focused in order to respond correctly. But throwing a curveball can also be applied to questions, for example. An unexpected and hard question requires attention and quickness to be correctly answered. Just as it happens with the batter when receiving a curveball!
Hitting a home run is one, if not the most, spectacular achievements one can perform in baseball. And in life too, apparently. We can use the phrase ‘you’ve hit a home run’ when someone has been successful in something difficult to achieve. For example, passing a difficult subject, or deciphering a complicated exercise. Those people are in level with a batter who has sent the ball out of the field, and that is our English way of acknowledging them!
These are 5 examples of idioms that have their origins in baseball. Of course, there are many more, and related to other disciplines, too! Can you think of idioms in your language that make reference to a sport? Share them with us, and we’ll include them in our next article!