Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stumped by a curveball

It seems that baseball metaphors are alive and well in the UK. And not entirely welcome. After the Defence Secretary, John Hutton, said:

that it was time for our European allies "to step up to the plate" and send more
of their troops to Afghanistan.
It did not go over well. At least in the Guardian, who felt it wasn't a well-turned phrase, particularly when it was a man who:

shares a surname with one of England's greatest cricketers using a baseball metaphor so lazily when our own national games offer so many richer ones. The main issue is the continued and varied use of baseball terminology and phrasing throughout the government.
Even footballer Joey Barton said that:

"I am always one to step up to the plate."
Oh, Joey, Joey. Couldn't you just have been the one to step up to the penalty spot? But this didn't come without a warning. In a 1946 essay, George Orwell warned us that:

a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves". He suggested that "many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning ... a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying".
And there are options:

Cricket, on the other hand, provides plenty of handy metaphors, and it is reassuring to know that some are still fashionable. "On the back foot" featured 1091 times in the national press last year and John Hutton could easily have told the allies that there was no need to be on the back foot over Afghanistan. Or he could have told them that it was time they "went in to bat" on behalf of Nato, a phrase (only three uses last year) that seems to be inexorably drifting over the boundary rope of life. "Hit it for six", for instance, features less frequently in the British press than "hit it out of the park".
So, in the case you feel the need to use a baseball phrase, there is a better idea:

In the meantime, all sporting cliches used without due thought should be hit into the long grass, punched over the bar, kicked into touch, turned round the post for a corner or, if necessary, flicked silkily through the covers for four.
Seems to me the French had a problem with something like this a few years ago and tried to ban all things American. Good luck with that, because I don't see it happening.

Obviously, I don't have an issue with this, and think more baseball-related terms should be used.

Hopefully, no one will think I'm off base.

No comments: