A review of some commonly used sports slang and idioms in English. It’s particularly useful for students to learn this stuff because Americans tend to reference a lot of American sports like baseball and football in our slang.
This isn’t a lesson plan exactly, just a list and some explanations of sports slang in English. Americans like sports and because we play lots of weird sports like baseball and American football that no one else plays it can be hard for foreigners to understand what we are talking about when we use sports terms in our everyday conversation. So here’s some sports slang for you with example sentences:
3 strikes and you’re out! In baseball, if you miss hitting the ball 3 times, you are out–which is bad. So in America we often say this to mean, “You have 3 chances”
For example: You better not make any more mistakes in your report for the boss. You know it’s 3 strikes and you’re out.
Translation: If you make more than 3 mistakes, the boss might give the assignment to someone else.
To play ball A baseball game officially opens when the umpire shouts “Play ball!” so “Play ball” can mean “Let’s get started.” However we also sometimes use it generally to mean “to follow the rules, to do what is expected of you, not to cheat”
Example 1: OK, we got our assignments. Play ball!
Translation 1: We have our tasks assigned so we better get started on them.
Example 2: This teacher is very strict. We better play ball with him.
Translation 2: We better follow the teacher’s assignments and instructions exactly and do everything he tells us to.
To drop the ball In American football, if you drop the ball, the play has to start over, and it’s not good for your team. So dropping the ball means failing, not doing what you were supposed to do.
Example: You promised you would help me clean my house but you really dropped the ball. You went off drinking with your friends all day.
Translation: You didn’t follow through on your promise and do what you should have done.
To come out of left field In baseball, left field is kind of far away from the rest of the game so no one can really see what is happening there. If something comes out of left field, it means that it was unexpected.
Example: We’ve been friends for 10 years and now Steve asks me out on a date. That really came out of left field
Translation: I didn’t expect Steve to try to date me since we’ve been just friends for so long.
To touch base: If you touch base with someone, you meet to catch up or to share some necessary information or report any news. It comes from baseball in which a runner must touch all 4 bases in order to score a point.
Example: I just came back from vacation and I really need to touch base with everyone so I know what happened while I was gone.
Translation: I need to get the latest information and find out what is going on because I have been away for a while.
For some of these terms and some more new ones, check out the excellent and comprehensive wikipeia entry on Baseball Slang
Thanks to The Slangman Series for a lot of these ideas. If you feel I’ve violated your copyright, let me know.