“American” Linguistic Themes: A Short Treatise

Maybe life is just a ball game and we should roll with the punches rather than analyze things to death, but I’ve noticed a trend and would like to test the waters with this hypothesis.
In case you couldn’t tell from the opening sentence, we’re talking idioms on the blog today.*
In my work as a reading specialist for a dyslexia consultancy, I talk to a lot of parents every day, from all over the world. And as an American working for a British company, that makes the lingua franca even harder to pin down.
(In case you were wondering, I like our New Zealanders the best. The Aussies are the most predictable, the Americans are the flakiest, the South Africans are the most intense, and the Brits are the most persevering of the lot.)
One thing I have noticed is that I end up using a lot of sports-related idioms in my everyday dialect. When I’m not talking to Americans, I wonder how much of what I say goes over my clients’ heads. I mean, sometimes the awkward silence clues me in. Or rather, sometimes I just get the feeling that my clients are agreeing with me without really knowing what I’m trying to say. Sort of the phone equivalent to the “smile and nod” technique.
Here are some of the idioms I’ve noticed myself saying recently. Non-Americans out there, do you know what these mean? Do you use them?
  • “just to cover our bases”
  • “all set”
  • “right off the bat”
  • “hit it out of the park”
  • “let’s kick-off with…”
  • “that’s a double whammy”
  • “state of the union”/”state of affairs”
  • “hit a home run”
  • “old hat”
  • “ok, hit it!”
  • “ahead of the game”
  • “on the home stretch”
  • “nearing the finish line”
  • “It’s a whole different ballgame”
  • “in the end zone”
  • “jumping the gun”
  • “throw a curveball”

Maybe I’m the only one, but I find it really interesting how much of my speech is influenced by one sport in particular — a sport I don’t particularly watch or even like: baseball. Is this my Boston-roots or an States-wide phenomenon?

Next up on the blog: British idioms that sound nice but are actually veiled insults. It’ll be a real cracker, I promise.

*bonus points if you count how many idioms I used in my sentences in this post!


5 thoughts on ““American” Linguistic Themes: A Short Treatise

  1. You really got the ball rolling on this one. It’s clear you are not a lightweight. This is definitely in your wheelhouse. You’ve run a full court press and won hands down but that seems to be par for the course with your writing expertise.
    I may be getting a little punch-drunk and slap-happy here but I’m just trying to roll with the punches because I’m down to the wire in trying to run the gambit on this one before someone else goes the distance.
    In other words, yes, your time in Boston is showing.

  2. What a labour of love! Now I wouldn’t want to be a fly in the ointment but this is just a drop in the bucket and I guess you reap what you sow. So, although I may be as old as the hills I am not at my wits end and in the twinkling of an eye will put you back on the straight and narrow, for a house divided against itself cannot stand. A leopard cannot change its spots, the writing is on the wall, at the last trump; you are a blood Brit. But love covers a multitude of sins and charity does begin at home, so we await your cracker with the patience of Job, but remember don’t cast your pearls before swine….
    And the source? Well it is the Sabbath!

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