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Ballpark Figure

Posted by Admin on July 10, 2021

When someone asks for a ballpark figure or a ballpark estimate, they are interested in a somewhat qualified number guesstimate and are willing to accept a very rough estimate where necessary. Sometimes the figure guessed at is pretty close to bang on and sometimes the estimate is so far off-base as to be completely without merit. That being said, one shouldn’t confuse a ballpark figure with a good faith estimate.

In the Fall of 2019, Blue Origin’s CEO Bob Smith told the media that the first space trips on New Shepard would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Speaking at TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF conference, he stated new technology is never cheap but that the cost of a ticket for middle-class people would eventually be affordable. Until then, GeekWire‘s Alan Boyle reported Bob Smith “hinted at a ballpark figure.”

The Polk County Enterprise newspaper of Livingston (TX) — a semi-weekly newspaper that includes local, state, and national news along with advertising — ran an story with an interesting headline in Volume 117, Number 64, Edition 1 of their newspaper published on 12 August 1999. The article by Enterprise reporter, Emily Banks, reported County Judge John Thompson had asked Clyde Arrendell who was the chief appraiser of the Polk Central Appraisal District to a budget workshop. Emily Bank reported:

Emphasizing that all figres were “ballpark figures” Thompson reviewed the budget schedule, as well as the county’s tax history from 1982 forward.

The title of the news article was this: Court Studies Budget with Ballpark Figures.

In the book “Surviving in the Newspaper Business; Newspaper Management In Turbulent Times” written by William James (Jim) Willis (born 19 March 1946) and published in 1988, the writer paraphrased what Marion Krehbiel, former president of the major newspaper brokerage firm Krehbiel-Bolitho Newspaper Service, Inc. had stated in the late 1970s with regards to arriving at a fair market price for a small to medium size daily newspaper.

Krehbiel added a caveat to these indexes, however, when he noted in 1979 that this forumula is only meant to provide purchasers with a ballpark estimate of a newspaper’s worth.

The 24 June 1957 edition of The Des Moines Register included the column “Washington Memo” which purported to report on what was going on in Washington DC. In this edition, immediately after reporting on how an Army colonel felt about one of this tasks which came about after a Southern congressman “yelped about [the Army’s] handling of racial relations.” Here’s what readers learned next.

CODE: Pentagon language continues to produce new bafflers. One of them is “a ballpark figure” meaning a very rough estimate which doesn’t do much more than indicate that a given program is going to cost somebody an awful lot of money.

Kenneth Patchen (1911 – 1972) wrote “Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer” which was published by the New Directions Publishing Corporation in 1945. In this book, the concept of the ballpark figure is used in conjunction with being out in left field on page 101 in the chapter titled, “The Last Party I Ever Went To.”

“Miro complicates it simply because he doesn’t know how to handle his material.”
“But Arp does, I suppose.”
“Of course he does.”
“You’re way out in left field.”
“And you not even in the ball park.”
I poured it out. The sand looked very sticky and the leaves on the tree were getting sort of yellow around the edges.
“And what about De Niro? This is a serious young painter.”
“All right, what about Kamrowski? – or Lee Bell? – or Jackson Pollock? – or Arthur Sturcke?”

He wasn’t the first to coin the phrase though as some sources claimed. On 1 May 1944, The Morning Herald in Hagerstown (MD) was reporting that on what a senator claimed about U.S. aid for that year.

Sen. Jim Sasser, D-Tenn., said in a speech that total U.S. aid for the current year is about $250 million. He said “a ballpark figure” is that his proposal would halt $150 million to $180 million.

Idiomation realizes that many websites claim the expression dates back to the mid-sixties with the understanding we have of the idiom these days, but obviously it was around before then for it to be used in a newspaper article twenty years earlier with the expectation that readers would understand what the idiom meant.

Unable to find an earlier published version of ballpark figure, Idiomation pegs this idiom to at least ten to fifteen years earlier for it to be used to freely in a newspaper article in 1944.

Posted in Baseball, Idioms from the 20th Century, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Move The Goalposts

Posted by Admin on February 11, 2016

Back in 1976, country recording artist Bobby Bare had a hit on his hands with the song, “Drop Kick Me Jesus Through The Goalposts of Life.”  It was a humorous song that crossed over to radio stations with non-country music formats.  But where did Bobby Bare come up with the idea of goalposts being idiomatic for describing life?  And is a positive or negative connotation when someone moves the goalposts?

If you hear someone accusing a person or company of shifting or moving the goalposts, they’re alleging that the person or company has changed the rules while everything is in progress.  Whether it’s done so the company or other person can come up the winner, if it’s done to set someone up for failure, or if it’s just to complicate a situation, is immaterial.  It’s a case of changing the rules while the “ball” is in play.

On February 2, 2016, journalist James Longstreet writing for the American Thinker shared his article about Dianne Feinstein, Vice-chairperson of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in the U.S. had commented on the Hillary Clinton email situation.  He stated that some of what Dianne Feinstein  had to say on the subject had shifted the focus to impact on the Democrat primary.  The article was titled, “Hillary Email Scandal: Feinstein Moves The Goal Posts, Raises Many Questions.”

Five years earlier, in on July 22, 2011, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) gave a press conference on the debt ceiling, and the reasons why he pulled out of negotiations with President Barack Obama on the topic of raising the legal limit to borrow money ahead of the August 2, 2011 deadline at which point the U.S. would no longer be able to pay all its bills.

The problem, according to John Boehner, was that the White House was demanding an extra $400 billion in revenues to the already agreed upon $800 billion (resulting in a tax increase for Americans).  He claimed that the White House refused to consider serious expenditure cuts, and was not interested in making hard decisions that would benefit America. In his comments to the press, he stated in part:

And a tax system that was more efficient in collecting the taxes that were due the federal government. And let me just say that the White House moved the goalpost.

In the article, “Uses and Misuses Of Strategic Planning” written by Daniel H. Gray and published in the Harvard Business Review of January 1986, the writer took on the subject of corporate America’s problems as they pertained to formal strategic planning.  He discussed how it was the poor preparation and incomplete implementation of decisions made through strategic planning that caused corporate America to struggle.  This is how he incorporated the idiom in his article:

What actually does happen is often rather primitive: exhortation, backdoor dealing, across-the-board cuts, moving the goalposts, and mandated performance promises. In other words, the units’ plans are force-fit in various ways into the corporate plan. At this stage of the game, companies normally focus their attention more on the numbers in the business plan than on the strategies.

Back in 1978, Albert Vincent Casey had been with American Airlines for four years after starting his career in the railroad industry.  He had been tapped to be their CEO at a time when the airline was struggling with a burdensome debt load and high costs due to premium services that were a hallmark of the airline.  He piloted the company through this turmoil in the 1970s and 1980s.  With regards to deregulation of airlines, he was quoted in the February 4, 1978 edition of the Washington Post thusly:

“They keep moving the goal posts,” he lamented.  “We’re not afraid of deregulation, though,” he said, “if they really took off all the wraps.”

Just a few years earlier, Time magazine used the idiom in the body of an article as well as in the title.  Published on March 6, 1972, the article, “JOBS: Moving The Goal Posts” took on the concept of what full employment meant.

To economists and politicians, “full employment” does not mean what the words suggest: a job for absolutely everybody who wants one. Instead, the working definition has long been a jobless rate no higher than 4%. Even by that measure, the U.S. has rarely enjoyed full employment since World War II; the last time was in the closing months of the Johnson Administration and the early days of the Nixon era. Now the President’s aides are redoubling efforts to bring the jobless rate back from nearly 6% toward full employment by the elections. Instead of launching another new economic game plan, however, they are trying to move the goal posts.

In Spanish, the idiom is cambiar las reglas del juego.  In French, the idiom is changer les règles du jeu pendant la partie.  Another way of saying this idiom in English is to say that the rules of the game were changed.

The word goalposts first came into being in 1834 and referred to sports requiring upright posts to allow for goals in a game involving two opposing players or teams. At that time, the goal was identified two upright posts supporting a crossbar of a goal.

Used in the current way, it’s easy to understand how, when someone moves the goalposts, it is an unexpected and frustrating occurrence for the person or persons focused on reaching the formerly identified goal.

Moving goalposts was even frowned up in the Christian Bible where it states this in Proverbs 22:28.

Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version going back before 1972, however, the fact that it was used with ease in a Time magazine article published in early 1972 indicates that the idiom was understood by the public at large.  It is most likely that move the goalposts as we understand the idiom to mean these days, came about in the 1960s.

Posted in Bible, Football, Idioms from the 20th Century, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

From Pillar To Post

Posted by Admin on August 18, 2015

When someone is said to be running from pillar to post, it’s another way of saying the person is running around in circles. In other words, they’re getting the run around and getting nowhere at all.

When Linda Kay Barber of Deer Park (WA) wrote a Letter to the Editor, the Spokesman-Review published it in their June 11, 1990 edition. She took issue with parents who weren’t putting their children first, whether they were dead beat non-custodial parents or parents who walked the picket line outside the Office of Support Enforcement. A line from her letter was plucked and became the letter’s headline: “Kids Kicked From Pillar To Post.”

When Hollywood was casting for the comedy series, “McHale’s Navy” starring Ernest Borgnine (24 January 1917 – 8 July 2012), producer Edward Montagne (20 May 1912 – 15 December 2003) saw Bobby Wright’s audition for another series titled, “It’s A Man’s World.” He cast the 20-year-old in the role of Radioman 2nd Class Willy Moss (credited as John Wright), and the story published in newspapers on Sunday, April 14, 1963 shared Bobby’s new-found fame in an article entitled, “From Pillar To Post.”

NOTE 1: Bobby Wright aka John Robert Wright Jr. (born 30 March 1942) is the son of Johnnie Wright (13 May 1914 – 27 September 2011) and country singer Kitty Wells (30 August 1919 – 16 July 2012), and the younger brother of country singer Ruby Wright (27 October 1939 – 27 September 2009) and Carol Sue Wright Sturdivant (born 12 June 1941).

Back on January 31, 1930 a story out of Washington dealing with prohibition was multifaceted. The upswing (or downswing depending if you were a Republican or a Democrat) of the discussion within the House Expenditures Committee about transferring dry enforcement from Secretary Melton’s bailiwick to that of the Attorney General was reported in the article.  On a related note, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of the Jack Daniel Distillery Company of St. Louis was rendered when it was determined that the government failed to prove that whiskey in a bonded warehouse had been stolen by anyone associated with the Jack Daniel Distillery Company.  The article was headlined as “Dry Law Bounced From Pillar To Post As Capitol Talk Continues” and this was the first sentence in the article.

The prohibition discussion continued to bounce from pillar to post in Washington today, but concrete developments were few.

NOTE 2: Lemuel Motlow, nephew of Jasper “Jack” Daniel, moved part of the Jack Daniel Distillery Company operations to St. Louis (MO) after Tennessee adopted state prohibition in 1910.

Thieves made off with 16 barrels of whiskey and 118 cases of bourbon from the warehouse in December 1922, and then siphoned 893 barrels of whiskey through 150 feet of hose, and into waiting trucks in August 1923. The barrels (save for one that was left untouched for inspection) were refilled with water and vinegar. The stolen whiskey was resold on the bootleg market.

Lemuel Motlow was charged by the police in what was later come to be known as the “whiskey milking case” but the case against Lemuel Motlow never went to trial. Twenty three others, including former St. Louis circuit clerk Nat Goldstein and William J. Kinney, brother of a state senator who at the time was responsible for the Jack Daniel’s inspection, were tried a year later in Indianapolis and sentenced to time in the Leavenworth (KS) jail. When prohibition was repealed in 1933, the distillery returned to its roots in Tennessee, setting up shop in Lynchburg.

The Sunday Herald of December 29, 1895 shared a news story of a middle-aged woman by the name of Mrs. Lizzie Bowen, and her 19-year-old boarder, Maude Mersin (whose real name was Mary Sheridan) who were known to cause considerable troubles for their neighbors. Maude, according to the news article, had a way of becoming acquainted with a great many young men, and was well-known in drinking establishments around town. She also spent an inordinate amount of time on the streets which was a polite way of reporting that she was a street-walker (which was the polite term for prostitute at the time).

Mrs. Bowen was no stranger to bad behavior herself and saw no problem with what neighbors were upset over. The trouble, however, cause the duo to be forced from their apartment on Elm Street, moving to new lodgings on White Street, where their troubles followed them. Forced to move from their apartment on White Street, they relocated to North Main Street where neighbors, familiar with the pair, continue to keep an eye on them.  The article was aptly entitled, “From Pillar To Post.”

NOTE 3: The article included an interesting saying Idiomation had not previously heard: “Give a dog a bad name and you might as well hang him.”

According to Brewer’s “Dictionary of Phrase and Fable” the original idiom was from post to pillar and was in reference to the tennis courts. It may seem strange to think of tennis as being a game of a certain age, however, it is, and historical documents speak of the game of court tennis in 13th century literature. A new addition to the game of tennis happened during the reign of King Henry VIII when tennis rackets were introduced into the game.

It was found in “Contention Between Liberality And Prodigality” published in 1602 where it was written:

Every minute tost, like to a tennis-ball, from pillar to post.

When Richard Stanyhurst published his book “Thee First Foure Bookes Of Virgil His Aeneis Translated Into English Heroical Verse” back in 1582, the game of tennis and the phrase were tied to each other as well.

Free thee poast toe piler with thoght his rackt wyt he tosseth.

Long before the tennis racket came into play, there were other elements that were integral parts of the game (which have long since disappeared) and tennis was an intricate game of strategy and endurance. Among the structures were galleries, grilles, tambours, and dedans. The net (which was nothing more than a rope) was tied to a post at one end and to one of the pillars supporting the galleries at the other end, and thus, the idiom from post to pillar began.

How do we know that this? We can thank John Lydgate (1370 – 1451) for writing the following in his work, “The Assembly Of The Gods” published in 1420.

And when he thedyr came, Humylyté hym took
A token and bad hym go to Confessyon,
And shew hym hys mater with a peteous look.
Whyche doon, he hym sent to Contrycion.
And fro thensforth to Satysfaccion.
Thus from poost to pylour was he made to daunce,
And at the last he went forthe to Penaunce.

But it does seem odd that if someone was going post to pillar, as John Lydgate wrote, that person would be doing so for penance. So if this reference hasn’t anything — or much of anything — to do with royal tennis, then the reference must have to do with being taken from the pillory to the whipping post as mentioned in John Ray’s book “A Hand-Book Of Proverbs” published in 1670 where he included, “To be tost from post to pillory.”

The spirit of the idiom, however, is first found in the book by John Heywood (1497 – 1580) entitled “The Proverbs, Epigrams, and Miscellanies” published in 1562. In Part II, Chapter II of the section titled, “Proverbs” the following is found:

And from post to pillar, wife, I have been tossed
By that surfeit. And I feel a little fit
Even now, by former attempting of it.

Also in this same book, John Heywood also included the following:

Tossed from post to pillar: thou art a pillar strong;
And thou hast been a pillar, some say, too long.

And so it seems that the idiom was recognized and understood in 1562 (and meaning what the idiom means today) which indicates that back in the mid-1500s, from pillar to post (or actually from post to pillar) was already understood by the general population in England.

This indicates that somewhere between 1420 when the phrase first appeared in “Assembly Of The Gods” by John Lydgate and 1562 in “The Proverbs, Epigrams, and Miscellanies” by John Heywood, the spirit of the idiom became set to mean going from one thing to another, and not getting anywhere.

Posted in Idioms from the 15th Century, Idioms from the 16th Century, Tennis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Snow Cone

Posted by Admin on December 4, 2013

When it comes to baseball, a snow cone is used to describe the appearance of a baseball caught in the tip of the webbing of a glove … making it look like a snow cone.   It’s also occasionally referred to as an ice cream cone.

On June 30, 2010, the MLB Advanced Media uploaded a video on their website with a description that read:

Bobby Abreu makes an amazing snowcone catch in right field, somehow hanging onto the ball to retire Michael Young in the first.

On September 8, 1985 the Gainesville Sun newspaper carried New York Times columnist, George Vecsey’s article “Reality And The Baseball Games.” With four days to go before Baseball Thursday happened (when both New York teams would find out their fates and learn who their nearest competitors were), baseball was really under the glass. The article stated in part:

It was some night to be perched in the fetid air of early September in the Bronx, watching Mattingly and then Dan Pasqua hit three-run homers. It was also some night to listen to Bob Murphy, his voice undulating like a calliope, describing Tom Paciorek’s “snow cone” catch to save the game, and, long after midnight, watch, on television, Darryl Strawberry’s radar-guided double beat the Dodgers in the 13th inning.

Now the baseball term snow cone is difficult to trace back, and for that reason Idiomation decided to approach the search from another angle by tracking down when the term snow cone was coined. Going back to 1919 when Samuel Bert was selling snow cones. In 1920, he invented the first snow cone making machine, and introduced at the State Fair that year. Delving further into snow cone history, there were different variations on the theme of where snow cones were first made. Having hit another difficult crossroad, Idiomation decided to come at the idiom from the direction of baseball’s history.

In September 1845, the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club was founded, and a set of rules were codified that were the basis for the modern game of baseball thanks in large part to bank clerk Alexander Joy Cartwright. The rules included details for a diamond-shaped infield, foul lines and the three-strike rule, making it faster-paced and more challenging than its predecessor, cricket. The New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club played its first official baseball game against a team of cricket players in 1846 thereby kicking off this American sports tradition we’ve all come to know and love. Fast forward to 1876, as fielding gloves were introduced to the game, and history says that the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs was formed.

With this information in hand, Idiomation tracked down proof that the first constructed ball park anywhere in the world was Shibe Park (later renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1953) in Philadelphia which opened on April 12, 1909. The stadium was named after Ben Shibe, an Athletics stockholder and manufacturer of baseball products, and built by William Steele and Sons (the stadium cost $141,918.91 for the land and $315,248.69 for construction). It could hold up to 13,600 spectators!

What we have then is this:  The first ball park constructed was built in 1909.  The first snow cone making machine was marketed in 1920.  And the term snow cone was used in parenthesis in a newspaper sports article in 1985.  In other words, the idiom was recognized by baseball fans and newscasters but not necessarily by everyone who read the newspaper.  For that reason, Idiomation is pegging the expression snow cone as it pertains to a baseball catch to a generation before the newspaper article in 1985 and a generation after the snow cone making machine was invented, putting the date at some time in the 1950s.

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Hail Mary Pass

Posted by Admin on November 22, 2013

Every once in a while, you may hear someone say he or she has thrown a Hail Mary or that someone he or she knows made a Hail Mary pass.  Unless you’re in the know, you might think these people are religious zealots. They’re not. What they mean is that, with no other viable options in their opinion, someone has gone with a desperate last-ditch effort to resolve a serious problem with only the smallest of chances of success.

How did this idiom come to be, and is it an idiom that’s been around for a really long time, taking into account how long ago Jesus’ mom, Mary lived?

Many believe (and incorrectly so) that it was coined by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach in a December 28, 1975 playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings. He threw the game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Drew Pearson, with only 26 seconds to go in the championship game, and Drew Pearson caught it, made the winning touchdown and made the Dallas Cowboys the winners. Later on, Roger Staubach told the medias,”I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.”

So if it’s not right that Roger Staubach coined the idiom, who did and when?

Fritz Barzilauskas played in the National Football League from 1947 to 1951 and before that, he was a star player at Yale. Acting as a scout for Yale years later, the article that quoted him in the October 13, 1959 edition of the Hartford Courant was about the “spectacular 65-yard heave” that came at the 24 second mark in the Cornell versus Yale game the previous Saturday. He was quoted as saying:

“They call it their Martin Luther play,” Barzilauskas said. “The same thing at Notre Dame would be called the Hail Mary pass.”

Back on December 30, 1940 Associated Press staff writer, John Wilds, wrote about the upcoming Orange Bowl game that would see Georgetown take on Mississippi State. Joe McFadden, the Hoyas’ quarterback, was described as the freckle-faced Irishman who ran the team. The article stated in part:

McFadden — a great actor in the huddle — is willing to call any play from a straight line buck to a ‘Hail Mary’ pass with never a thought of the second-guessers.

Jumping back 8 years to January 1932, newspapers from the Moberly Monitor (which ran the story on 8 January 1932) to the Fairbanks Daily News (which ran the story on 24 January 1932) ran a story about the annual banquet of the American Football Coaches’ Association. In the article, the story told by Jim Crowley (September 10, 1902 – January 15, 1986) — one of the University of Notre Dame’s Four Horsemen coached by Knute Rockne — had to do with the game on October 28, 1922 between the North Dame Fighting Irish and Georgia Tech.  This is what Jim Crowley reportedly said:

In 1922 Notre Dame had nine sophomores on the team that went to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech. In the first half Tech got a field goal and things looked pretty dark for us. In the third period Layden punted to Red Barron, who muffed. We recovered on the 20-yard line and tried three plays in vain. It was fourth down.

It so happened that we had a Presbyterian on the team. He stopped play and said to us, ‘Boys, let’s have a Hail Mary’. Well, we prayed, and Layden soon went over for a touchdown.

Believe it or not, the formula was repeated. Again Layden kicked, again Barron fumbled, again we tried three plays in vain. ‘Let’s have another Hail Mary’, said the Presbyterian. Well, again Layden went over for a touchdown.

After the game I discussed the strange series of events with our Presbyterian. ‘Say, that Hail Mary is the best play we’ve got’, he exclaimed.

While the idiom got its start in football, it has since spread out and is found in any number of situations (including business, politics, and technology) where a long-shot desperate last-ditch move is made in the hopes of coming up the winner. It’s an idiom that’s even made it into the geek community such as in the board game Blood Bowl.

That being said, the earliest published mention of the Hail Mary Pass is from 1932 and clearly stamps the expression as being from 1922.

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Horse Collar Tackle

Posted by Admin on November 4, 2013

What would football or rugby be without perfect tackles, high tackles, diving tackles, grass cutter tackles, broken tackles, slam tackles, and wing tackles? But one tackle that’s been banned in the last ten years by the National Football League (NFL), the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the horse collar tackle.

So what exactly is a horse collar tackle? When the defender reaches a hand inside the ball carrier’s collar by their necks from behind and pulls the player down, that’s a horse collar tackle. The dangers associated with this kind of tackle are that it can cause severe injuries to the tackled player’s neck, broken legs and ankles, and tears to ligaments in the knees and ankles.

The rule instituted in 2005 that forbids the use of the horse collar tackle was euphemistically referred to as the “Roy Williams Rule” due in large part to the fact that the 2004 NFL season saw 6 major injuries thanks to horse collar tackles. Four of those six major injuries were a result of Roy Williams’ horse collar tackles. On May 23, 2005 and as reported in a number of newspapers including the May 25, 2005 edition of the Lewiston Tribune, owners of NFL teams voted 27 to 5 to ban the tackle. The 5 times that didn’t want it banned were the Dallas Cowboys (the team with Roy Williams), the Detroit Lions, the New England Patriots, the New Orleans Saints, and the San Francisco 49ers. In the Lewiston Tribune the Associated Press story entitled, “Owners Prohibit Horse Collar Tackle” the article stated in part:

The owners’ only definitive action was the 27-5 vote to ban the horse collar tackle, in which a defender grabs the back inside of an opponent’s shoulder pads and yanks the player down. Dallas safety Roy Williams does the tackle as well as anybody, but he seriously injured All-Pro received Terell Owens of Philadelphia with the maneuver last season.

On August 28, 2013 Jaimie Uribe of Fort Lauderdale, under the headline “Around The League” posted this to his Google Plus account:

Can’t hit high, cant hit low, cant hit from the blindside, cant hit with unnecessary force, cant grab from the horse collar, can’t grab from the facemask, cant hit with the arm, helmet, or shoulder, oh yeah, and can’t trip someone either as that is just too rough. Is the NFL one rule away from jumping the shark?

Now the game of football (more or less as we know it) in America has been around since 1889 and the rules have evolved ever since. In 1974, there were serious changes in the rules to add action, color and tempo to the games. Four years later, more rule changes were made, this time permitting a defender to maintain contact with a receiver within five yards of scrimmage. Restricted contact was allowed after that point.

But nowhere in all the research done was Idiomation able to identify when horse collar tackle was first used.  Idiomation’s best guess is that it was some time after 1978 and before 2000. If readers or visitors have additional links they can provide to help pin point the origin of the expression, please post them in the Comments section below.

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Sin Bin

Posted by Admin on October 30, 2013

With hockey season in full swing, certain sports idioms are being heard more and more often including sin bin. But the expression sin bin isn’t just a hockey term. In fact, it’s used in a number of sports. What exactly is a sin bin? A sin bin is a penalty box where players sit to serve the time of a given penalty. In Britain more recently, it also refers to a special unit on a separate site from a school that disruptive schoolchildren attend until they can be reintegrated into their normal classes.

On March 28, 2011 the South Wales Echo out of Cardiff published a sports story entitled, “Crusaders Run Into Dixon In Fine Form.” As brief as the story was, it still managed to use sin bin as a verb no fewer than three times. In this sentence:

The Welsh team trailed 22-0 at half-time after paying dear for having three players sin-binned in the first half.

In this sentence:

The first half was marred by an 18th-minute brawl that saw Crusaders duo Vince Mellars and Witt and Castleford’s Youngquest sin-binned.

And finally, in this sentence:

Crusaders were then reduced to 12 again in the 34th minute when full-back Schifcofske was sin-binned for throwing a spare ball onto the pitch in an apparent attempt to slow down play when the Tigers were in possession.

That’s a lot of sin-binning!

When Brian Mossop reported on a game in the Rugby League in his story “Ugly Side Of League Goes In Pairs” for the Sydney Morning Herald of June 29, 1982 he built excitement for readers by starting the article with this:

Two players were sent off, two were taken to hospital, two did time in the sin bin, and two biting incidents were reported as Rugby Leagues showed some of its uglier side in matches yesterday.

Shortly after that, he wrote:

At Endeavour Field referee Kevin Roberts ordered two props, Cronulla-Sutherland’s Dane Sorensen and South Sydney’s Gary Hambly, to the sin bin for 10 minutes after a second-half brawl.

Canadians have always loved their hockey and on January 4, 1964 the Ottawa Citizen shared sports news in a story entitled, “Penalties Galore, Even For Teams Not On The Ice.” The story dealt with a number of games, but when it came to reported on the hockey games in the Ontario Hockey League, readers were shocked to learn that the Morrisburg versus Lancaster game resulted in a league record total of 92 minutes in a game that ended 4 to 2. The last two sentences read:

Bob Tilley, picked up by Morrisburg from the folded Brockville team, was sentenced to a total of 21 minutes in the sin bin for various offences. Between penalties, Morrisburg made it tough on Lancaster goalie Don Grant, who stopped a total of 50 shots while playing an outstanding game.

A generation before that on March 31, 1939 the Windsor Daily Star reported on another hockey game in a story entitled, “Die-Hard Wings Tie It Up: Rangers Stick.” This game wasn’t just any hockey game. It was a battle between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the prize was the 1939 Stanley Cup! With almost 12,000 fans at the Detroit Olympia to cheer on both teams, all of the goals and eight of the penalties were packed into the first period, along with ninety percent of the action according to the reporter. Midway through the story, readers learned the following:

It was while the Wings rearguard was in the sin-bin that the Leafs got their only goal of the game to balance accounts. It was a typical Toronto power play that netted the counter. Four abreast, the visitors swept into Detroit territory.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published reference to sin bin. Because it was used in 1939 with the expectation that the idiom would be understood, the term pre-dates 1939. That being said, the first modern hockey game was played on March 3, 1875. As the game evolved, so did the nature of penalties although Idiomation was unable to find an exact date when the penalty box was first used.

That being said, it would not be unreasonable to tag the use of the idiom sin bin to 1930, and if any of our readers has a date for when the first penalty box came to be in hockey, please share the link to that information with others by way of the comments below.

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Spitballing

Posted by Admin on June 10, 2013

When someone tells you that they’re spitballing, they could mean one of four things. They could literally mean that they’re making spitballs to use as trajectories. They could mean the baseball pitch that’s referred to as a spitball. They could mean they are making unfounded accusations against someone else. Or they could mean they’re brainstorming ideas.

Back on February 9, 2011 Rich Siegel wrote a tongue-in-cheek article for the Huffington Post entitled, “Someone Will Be With You Shortly.” He discussed his thoughts on the Middle East extremists and at one point he wrote:

Perhaps we’ve been going at it all wrong. What if, and I’m just spitballing here, instead of trying to prevent attacks on civilians we offered our Muslim brothers our least-liked people to satisfy their blood lust.

That’s right, I’m suggesting human sacrifice.

It served the Aztecs well. Ancient Phoenicians and Carthaginians practiced the ritual. Even the Chinese offered up humans to their river gods.

It appears that the expression is one that’s been quite popular, especially in the realm of politics. Ed Morrissey posted an article to HotAir.com on June 16, 2010 that criticized President Barack Obama’s speech addressing the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig incident 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Ed Morrissey’s comments were based, in part, on the political commentary on the subject by Andrew Malcolm as published in the Los Angeles Times on June 15, 2010.

For a man who has repeatedly claimed to be “fully engaged since Day 1,” and who repeated that claim last night, Obama gave every impression of still being in the spitballing stage of crisis management.

Obama didn’t even offer an original thought for spitballing.  In his short presidency, Obama has had two responses to any issue: appoint a czar or create a commission.

And the year before that, Patrick Sauer wrote an article published by the Huffington Post entitled, “Tim Geithner: Take My Toxic Assets, Please” where he discussed the banking conundrum of the times. There were more than a few idioms in the article, and interestingly enough, spitballing was one of them.

Angry folks are practically calling for a public guillotining of a Wall St. fat cat or two. Ironically, and I’m just spitballing here, that bloody spectacle would do boffo business on pay-per-view and easily cover the next TARP giveaway … So c’mon down hedge fund managers and financial CEOs, you’ve won The Lottery, Shirley Jackson style!

The Youngstown Vindicator edition of February 23, 1981 published an article by journalist, Dick West, that talked about how the freedom fighters of George Washington’s day would be called terrorists by 1980s standards. Humorous in its delivery, the point was clearly made. The article read in part:

And since there was no television in Washington’s time, the Tass commentary adds up to mere spitballing.

Nevertheless, if you close your eyes real tight, you can visualize how such events as the Boston Tea Party might have been reported on the nightly news with Walter Anchorman.

On December 1, 1949 the Milwaukee Sentinel published an article by George E. Sokolsky entitled, “Truman Policy: Peace At A Big Price.” The article addressed what the journalist felt was the result of Soviet Russia’s conquest of China and the policy of the Chinese Communists at the time. He stated:

The arrest of Angus Ward and William N. Stokes, our consular officers in Mukden, is now obviously due to a desire to make the U.S. “lose face” throughout Asia by failing to protect its representatives. It is good propaganda for the Russians, who would kill anyone who threw a spitball at Joe Stalin’s picture.

And so with this article, readers can see that politics and baseball’s spitball began to be associated with each other thanks to journalists such as George E. Sokolsky.

Years earlier, the Meridien Daily Journal published an article in their March 13, 1915 edition entitled, “On The Matter Of Spitballing.” Even back in 1915, according to the article by Frank G. Menke, spitball pitching wasn’t a common practice in the big league any more. Of interest, however, is the description of what a spitball pitch. The definition read:

The use of the spitball makes for great twirlers. History shows that mediocre pitchers who mastered the spitball quickly jumped into first rank in their particular department of the game. But history also shows that the spitball shortens a pitcher’s career.

One would think that spitballing in any other career would also have a similar effect, and so it does.

The good news about the expression spitballing is that not only does it already have a past, it already has a future. In the Star Trek novel, “Typhon Pact #2: Seize The Fire” by Michael A. Martin, published by Simon & Schuster, the following is found:

“Maybe his shipmates thought he was dead,” Riker said, spitballing, though without much conviction.

And so Idiomation pegs the longevity of the expression spitballing (in terms of throwing out ideas) to the 24th century thanks to Commander Riker, with a history that dates back to sometime in the mid to late 1940s (with a nod to the definition at the turn of the 20th century).

Posted in Baseball, Idioms from the 20th Century, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Bling

Posted by Admin on April 8, 2013

Bling aka Roxanne “Roxy” Washington is a fictional character in the X-Men comic books published by Marvel Comics and first appeared in August 2005. Her superpower is having bone marrow that produces diamond shards which means she has exceptional durability. But where did the word bling come from in the first place, and who coined it?

According to an article in the Seattle Times on December 27, 2005 the term bloom was off the flower where the expression bling was concerned.  Journalist Robin Givhan of the Washington Post wrote:

The word “bling” has been overused by every two-bit jeweler selling cubic zirconium. It has been worn out by virtually all fashion publicists — who for the past five months have been chirping, “Bling The New Year!” — and by every morning TV host trying to make the umpteenth holiday shopping segment sound fun and nifty.

She went on to write:

It used to be that “bling” was reserved for jewelry, decorative wheel rims or gold teeth — all of it excessively flashing and extraordinarily expensive. It was a terrific term because it had the quality of a sound effect.

In January of 2005, the Guardian newspaper took on the subject of noticeable jewelry being worn more and more often by celebrities in an article entitled, “How Bling-Bling Took Over The Ring.” The teaser with the article enticed people to read more about the bling being worn by boxing’s most noticeable personalities.

From Don King’s diamonds to Mike Tyson’s ostentatious gems, only boxing rivals in the bling stakes. Thomas Hauser and Marily Cole Lownes trace the rise of the carat crunchers — including one whose smile is worth a small fortune.

A year before that in January of 2004, the Lake Superior State University of Michigan committee had already deemed the expression bling as one of the most useless and overused words, winning the expression a place on the “List of Words Banished From The Queen’s English For Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness” — a list that has existed since 1976.

On January 22, 2000 the Gettysburg Times published a news story by Associated Press Sports Writer, Ken Peters about the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA fans who loved them. The story was entitled, “Lakers’ Victory Parade Travels Through Scene Of Violence.” Along with the festive tone of the piece, the following sentence was included:

Bling Bling” was O’Neal’s explanation for the sound made when light bounces off a diamond NBA championship ring.

It’s a fact that the term bling was added to the Merriam Webster dictionary in 2006 and the Oxford English Dictionary in 2002 after rising in popularity in the English language thanks to hip hop culture.

Jamaican DJ Super Cat had a hit in 1993 with the song “Dolly My Baby” which was recorded for his 1992 album, Don Dada. It reached #64 on the R&B charts and #21 on the rap and dance charts. The expression appears midway through the song as follows:

[Third Eye]
Bling, bling! Who’s that with Supercat
(Third Eye!, Third Eye!)
Yes black, where all my troopers at
(Uptown!, Uptown!)
They got my back but I’m still strapped
Got the real phat, phat track for my ill rap
Black, ain’t no shame in my game, just because it’s real
You think I won’t scoop your girl, oh yes I will.

This makes Lil’ Wayne’s claim on the Outkast song, “Hollywood Divorce” specious at best when he raps:

Bling bling, I know and did you know I’m the creator of the term?

But in the end, credit has to go to the makers of Ultrabrite toothpaste who created a commercial campaign back in the 1970s that ran with the tag line: “Ultrabrite gives your mouth … [bling] … sex appeal!” Before the words “sex appeal”, a high-pitched bell would sound over the visual of a young man or woman smiling. It wasn’t long before comedians seized on what they felt was the silliness of the campaign, spoofing it in their routines by vocalizing the sound effect.

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All Sense And No Nonsense

Posted by Admin on January 14, 2013

When you hear someone say someone is all sense and no nonsense what they are saying is that the person appears sensible, direct, efficient, and practical. In other words, what they say is what they mean and what they say and do is usually well-thought out long before they say and do what they mean to say and do.

In Thomas D. Taylor’s short story “Skeleton Key” published in 2013, the narrator shares this with the reader:

The man was hardly more than a boy though he must have been in his mid-twenties. He was blond, fair looking but resembled an accountant more than a jock. He had glasses, wispy hair and was dressed in a white T-shirt and jeans. The woman he was with wore white shorts and a blue and white striped top. She was also blond but had no characteristics of the familiar stereotype. This one was all sense and no nonsense.

While the phrase isn’t heard very often these days, it was used in an advertisement in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on February 26, 1943 where the headline read:

All Sense And No Nonsense About These Slack Suits For Your Working Hours.

The slack suits they were selling were described thusly:

Designed primarily for play, slack suits have been taken up with gusto by today’s busy women for their working hours. They’re comfortable as an old shoe, yet are so beautifully tailored and styled, they give you that neat, concise look that’s important these days.

Back in 1873, the expression was found in “The National Teacher: A Monthly Educational Journal: Volume III” edited by Emerson Elbridge White. In the Editorial Department, on page 507, the following was written:

School Commissioner Harvey has attended a large number of the institutes in Ohio this year, rendering valuable assistance. His public addresses are highly commended by the press. An eminent educator who heard him at a recent institute, writes: “Commissioner Harvey is capital — all sense and no nonsense. No teacher can hear him without benefit.”

Taking the phrase apart, the no nonsense part of the phrase actually originates from the phrase to stand no nonsense which, according to numerous dictionaries, was sporting slang back in 1821.

The word nonsense itself entered the English language from the French word nonsens sometime in the 1610s. The French word meant that something was either ridiculous or wildly unreasonable.

Since the expression was used in a published magazine in 1873, it is reasonable to believe that the expression all sense and no nonsense was in use at least one generation prior to 1873, putting it at sometime in the late 1840s or early 1850s.

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