In a book I was leafing through a character said something to the effect of, "It's fine to have plans, but what do you do when life throws you a curve?" The idiom was familiar, and I'd always thought it to be from a curveball (a kind of pitch) in US baseball.
But the phrase was put in the mouth of a Scotsman who had spent his life in Scotland.
So tell me: Is that phrase used in the UK (and if so, what is its origin)? Or is it a US phrase which the author mistakenly put in the Scotsman's mouth?
July 17, 2006, 19:58
While you wait for an answer from a UKer, I looked it up in the OED. It is cited, but only in relation to baseball games.
July 17, 2006, 23:02
It's not a UK expression. I'd say it's an example of the problems a US author has in writing authentic UK-sounding speech (and vice versa). I posted a link to an article about that a short while ago.
Indeed. If a British writer wanted to use a ball-sport analogy he or she would use a British (and probably English) sport.
"Bowled him a googly" (cricket) or "Kicked it into touch" (rugby) are two that I have heard. Those who have an interest in sport will probably know of more.
July 18, 2006, 08:27
"life throws you a curve" yields over 20,000 Ghits, only about one-seventh of which are rightpond-related
July 18, 2006, 09:07
Dale, the recently recommended book far From The Madding Gerund has a number of articles that might interest you on using Google as a tool for corpus linguistics and psycholinguistics. It might be stuff you know already but it's worth a look. If you don't want to buy the book the same columns should be available somewhere on the language log blog.
"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
Oddly, after saying we don't use the expression over here, my paper reported an Irish golfer using it; he was saying something to the effect that you can expect links golf "to throw you the occasional curve ball." Presumably he's been spending quite a lot of time on the US Tour.
Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
July 18, 2006, 10:55
Bob, thank you, I shall be on the lookout
July 18, 2006, 22:14
This is one of the many of examples of baseball jargon that has entered the American lexicon. This problem is general in literature. Regardless of what you read, if it isn't a current speaker you have strange issues. Words from Greek gods, like jovial, tend to upset me when set in a context different than one where contact with Greece was possible.
July 19, 2006, 18:53
Something that's set in the wrong time period is an 'anachronism'. But what do you call something (such as the curve-ball phrase) that's set in the wrong place?
July 20, 2006, 02:06
what do you call something (such as the curve-ball phrase) that's set in the wrong place?