Craig: The political history of baseball jargon

From Mary Craig at The Hardball Times on July 17, 2017:

In 1945, George Orwell wrote an essay titled “Politics and the English Language,” in which he addresses the four largest writing follies: dying metaphors, poor operators, pretentious diction, and meaningless words. At the core of these issues is that they obfuscate the key to good writing: conveying an idea as plainly as possible. Any combination of these four follies results in “gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug.” Their repeated usage divorces them from their strict dictionary definitions and instead imbibes them with cultural significance, leaving readers the task of deriving meaning from overly complex, cliched writing.

Baseball thrives on this style of diction, imbibing jargon into every element and crafting stories based on old metaphors. A number of aspects of the game are described via phrases that work themselves into other areas of life, such as “batting 1.000,” “out of left field,” and “give me a ballpark number,” wherein they typically lose their original meaning. The language of baseball has become so specialized that it is difficult to read an article or watch a broadcast without having prior knowledge.

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Originally published: July 21, 2017. Last Updated: July 21, 2017.