Baseball Idioms

During the presidential campaign of 2016 there was some confusion over a word or phrase that Donald Trump kept using. It was hard to discern whether he was saying the word “bigly” or the phrase “big league.” It was eventually confirmed that he was saying “big league”, but what does this term mean? Big league is a reference to professional baseball in the United States. The “big league” is the one where every professional player aspires to play, Major League Baseball. The Washington Nationals play in the National League’s East Division of Major League Baseball.

It is not surprising that a presidential candidate with years of television experience would use a baseball term. However, President Trump used the term “big league” in a particularly colloquial manner. For example, he said that he would cut taxes big league and that manufacturing would be brought back big league. These uses show that doing something in a “big league” manner means to do it in a significant way.

Baseball is called “America’s pastime” and therefore the American vernacular is full of baseball idioms. To meet or start a discussion over a specific issue, people might “touch base.” This idiom is a reference to when baseball players are on base and occasionally converse with a player on the opposing team. Once a player is on base, he needs to have part of his foot touching the base, otherwise he can be tagged out with the baseball. In a city like Washington, it is common to come across examples of “inside baseball.” This idiom refers to a topic or theme that is difficult to understand if one does not work in nor has experience working in a particular industry. Another example is when someone throws or is “throwing a curveball.” A curveball is either a pitch that is both notoriously difficult to hit, or a situation that is surprising or difficult.

– Christian Zimmerman, ESL Teacher and ICLS Blog Contributor