Baseball slang is in my wheelhouse

With baseball being America’s “national pastime,” it’s no surprise its lingo has become so ingrained in our language. For more than a century, it has been commonplace for both sports lovers and the sports adverse to rattle off baseball slang without even thinking of its origin.

You go to buy a car and the salesman asks for a ballpark figure of what you want to spend.

You get a promotion and a coworker congratulates you with, “Now you’ve hit the major leagues.”

You complain to a friend about a squabble with your girlfriend and say, “She really threw me a curveball.”

You review your packing list for an upcoming trip to make sure you have covered all your bases.

We know intrinsically what these terms mean because, like it or not, we’ve grown up in a baseball culture. But think about an English language learner in her first months in America. How would she respond when she hears batting a thousand, right off the bat, or even whole new ball game?

Slang, in general, is right in my wheelhouse—which literally means “a batter’s power zone,” but colloquially means “an area of interest.” But baseball lingo is especially so, since I happen to be a fan. (Go Twins!)

Regardless of your level of sport adoration, I’ve compiled a list of colorful baseball lingo you might not have heard before. So get out your homer hankies!  (Note to partners of sports fans: If you pepper a few of these gems into your sweet nothings with your boyfriend/girlfriend tonight, you might just hit a home run.)

Baltimore chop: A ground ball that hits in front of or off of home plate then takes a big hop over the infielder’s head.

Bang-bang play: When the runner reaches the base a split-second before the ball arrives or vice versa.

Banjo hitter: A batter with no power.

Bazooka: A strong throwing arm.

Bronx cheer: When the crowd boos.

Chin music: A pitch thrown high and inside.

Dinger: A home run.

Farm team: A minor league team.

Get good wood: To hit a ball hard.

Goose egg: A zero on the scoreboard.

Heater: A high-quality fastball.

Hot corner: Third base.

In the hole: The batter after the on-deck hitter.

Lollipop: A soft, straight pitch with a lot of arc.

Magic words: Specific words a player or coach says to an umpire that almost certainly leads to ejection from the game.

Meatball: A pitch that’s easy to catch.

Moon shot: A ball that’s hit very long and high that results in a home run.

On the screws: When a batter hits a ball hard.

Rhubarb: A scuffle on the field.

Ribbie: An RBI.

Sweet spot: The area of the bat just a few inches from the barrel.

Table setter: A batter whose job is to get on base so other hitters can drive him in for an RBI. (Usually the first or second batter)

Tea party: A conference on the pitcher’s mound with the pitcher, catcher, and manager.

Texas leaguer: A struck ball that drops between an infielder and outfielder.

Uncle Charlie: A curve ball.

Yardjob: A home run.

Studying Yogi-isms, but instead of “all over again,” it’s for the first time, at least on this blog

Lesson: Reducing redundancy and contradiction

Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was as well known for the RBIs he made while wearing a Yankee’s jersey as he was for his off-field RBIs, or “Real Berra Intelligence.” (Wow. I can actually hear your groaning. Personally, I’m just proud I know enough about baseball to make a joke like that.) My poor joking aside, Berra’s turns of phrase actually did become so iconic that they received their own linguistic category, “Yogi-isms.”

I’m sure you’ve heard of the most famous Yogi-isms:

– “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

– “I didn’t really say everything I said.”

– “It’s like déjà-vu all over again.”

While they are just plain fun to read, there is another reason to discuss Yogi-isms on Grammar Party, that’s because they are a good way to learn about two (at times hilarious) errors in sentence construction: pleonasm and contradiction.

Pleonastic Yogi-isms

Earlier this week, we discussed some pleonasms that are easy to spot once you get used to them. These are examples like: “free gift,” “up North,” and “invited guest.” However, pleonastic Yogi-isms are more difficult to catch. Instead of using two different words where one word would be sufficient, pleonastic Yogi-isms repeat the idea in two different ways. The last example listed above, “It’s like déjà-vu all over again,” is probably the best example of this type of Yogi-ism.

Here are some more examples:

– “Eighty percent of the balls that don’t reach the hole don’t go in.” (on golf)

“Don’t reach the hole” is the same as “don’t go in.”

–  “If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.”

“Imitate” is the same as “copy.”

And here’s one that fits in with the type we studied in the last post:

– “We made too many wrong mistakes.”

Can you spot the pleonasm? It’s “wrong mistake.” Is there a “mistake” that is “right”?   Maybe in a romantic comedy. I can see it now: Jennifer Aniston and Ashton Kutcher in Right Mistake. And it would probably be about a baby. And it probably wouldn’t be very funny.

Anyway . . . let’s move on to the other type of Yogi-ism

Contradictive Yogi-isms

In this type of Yogi-ism, Berra would start a sentence by expressing one idea, and then end it with the opposite idea.

Here are some examples:

– “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”

– “It gets late early out there.”

– “I wish I had an answer to that because I’m tired of answering that question.”

Yogi-isms are awfully entertaining, but they are also good examples of mistakes to avoid when you are not trying to be witty. Eliminating pleonasms tighten up your writing and speaking. Also, be especially wary of making contradictions when you are building an argument, as they can nullify your point. And if you ever get called to a witness stand, I would not recommend saying, “I didn’t really say everything I said.”

If you would like to read more Yogi-isms, you can find a list here.

Fun fact: Yogi Berra isn’t the only person famous for his interesting style of oration. Computer Science professor David Farber, who was a major force in creating early computer programming languages, is also notorious for his nonsensical slips of the tongue. His quotes are now referred to as “Farberisms.”

Here are a few of his gems:

– “Don’t look a charlie horse in the mouth.”

– “That’s the way the cookie bounces.”

– “Don’t roll up your nostrils at me.”

– “Don’t rattle the cage that feeds you.”

– “It rolls off her back like a duck.”

Farber’s students have compiled a huge list of these sayings. You can read them here for a laugh.