Touchdown! Do You Know These Ten Idioms From The World Of Sports?

Published on March 9, 2024

Credit: Riley McCullough

It is said that baseball is America’s favorite pastime, but we would like to argue that several other sports are heavy contenders for the title. Or perhaps it would be more suitable to consider that the thrill of sports themselves fuel millions of Americans every day. From the excitement of a "Hail Mary" pass being completed, to an indomitable boxer getting up for one more round, sports are undeniably an essential part of American culture.

We might sometimes fail to realize how many of our everyday expressions come from the world of sports. With that in mind, we have gathered ten of our favorite sports idioms for your enjoyment. Some you know, and some might be a bit of a surprise. Who knows? You might end up with a new catchphrase for the next game you watch with your friends.

Credit: Samuel-Elias Nadler


The ball is in your court

We’ll begin this list with one of the most popular sports idioms out there. Whenever you hear someone say "The ball is in your court now", you might suddenly feel burdened with the responsibility of taking action. And while this is its most common use, this idiom might also mean an opportunity to make amazing things happen.

The origins of this idiom most likely come from the world of tennis , since a player might only take action whenever the ball is on their side of the court. While this phrase was most popular during the 1970s, it can be traced back to the 19th century.


Hail Mary

Credit: Riley McCullough

A "Hail Mary" is a last-minute, long-distance pass, usually made in a last-ditch attempt to score. While other popular sports like basketball had some incredible "Hail Mary" moments, this move is mostly associated with football. The perhaps most iconic Hail Mary pass happened in a 1984 game between the Miami Hurricanes and the Boston College Eagles when Boston quarterback Doug Flutie made a 63-yard successful pass that resulted in a touchdown. This iconic game is now known as "the Hail Flutie", and a statue of Flutie commemorating the pass was unveiled in Boston College in 2008.

The origins of this idiom come from Christianity, most accurately from the "Hail Mary" prayer. Considering the difficult odds of completing this pass, the play references a prayer for help and success.


Out of left field

Credit: Keith Johnston

This one is a bit of a mystery. The idiom "Out of left field", which means something that is very surprising or completely unexpected , comes from baseball. What’s not completely clear is why baseballs thrown from the left field are considered odd or unexpected, since most batters are right-handed and would tend to hit the ball onto the left field. Some people believe that, because left fielders tend to be the most far out, a fast throw from the left field would be an unexpected surprise.

According to music historian Arnold Shaw, this idiom was first used by the music industry to refer to songs that unexpectedly performed well . In the 1940s, "Out of left field" hits were heavily promoted by song pluggers as songs that were easily sold.


On the ropes

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Allow us to describe this idiom with a timeless cinematic scene. In the first "Rocky" movie, after the up-and-coming new boxer knocks Apollo Creed for the first time, the enraged heavyweight champion launches a flurry of punches at Rocky. The Italian Stallion can only protect himself, and finds himself restricted to the corner of the ring. This image is a perfect example of being on the ropes: to be in an extremely desperate situation, from which it's very difficult to recover.


Down for the count

Credit: Johann Walter Bantz

Another staple of boxing films is the iconic countdown when the underdog hits the canvas after what seems to be a defeating punch. What follows is an excruciating count, on which our hero pulls out his last hurrah and stands right before a referee in slow motion as it reaches ten.

While its origins obviously come from boxing, this idiom is extremely popular and regularly used in American slang. Its connotation is usually of being completely defeated, and unable to recover from a spectacular beatdown.


Throw a curveball

Credit: Jose Francisco Morales

A tricky question on an exam or an awkward dinner with the in-laws are some of the curveballs that life usually throws at us . This idiom is used to describe an unexpected and tough situation or problem, and it of course comes from baseball.

There is actually some debate on who threw the first curveball, but what we do know is that it was in the 19th century. Fred Goldsmith, one of the players who claims to have thrown the first curveball, would set poles on a baseball field and amaze fans by throwing a curve between them.


Drop the ball

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We have all dropped the ball at some point in our lives. Maybe we said the wrong thing on a first date or forgot to pick up the dry cleaning before they closed for the weekend. To "Drop the ball" is an expression used for making a mistake , or for forgetting something important.

This idiom comes from football, in which a pass has to be caught in order to be completed. Dropping the ball would result in an incomplete pass or, worse, on the opposing team gaining possession.


Go the distance

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It seems that the world of boxing is ripe with idioms , as a third expression originated in "the sweet science" makes it to this list. To go the distance means to fully commit to a challenge, and it references when a fighter would last the entire length of a fight instead of being knocked down early.

Nowadays, the idiom is used to highlight the endurance and resilience of someone facing an adverse or challenging situation, and their willingness to see it through.


Run interference

Credit: Keith Johnston

This idiom sounds way more negative than it actually is. If you heard that someone is "running interference" on you, you might be suspicious and think that this ill-intentioned stranger is trying to sabotage your life in any way. However, it might surprise you to know that this idiom means the opposite: If you are running interference on someone, you are in fact trying to deal with someone’s problems as soon as they happen. This idiom comes from the way football players protect the player who has the ball by physically blocking the opposing team.


Thrown in at the deep end

Credit: Clark Tai

Some parents believe that the best way to teach a kid to swim is to throw them into the deep end of a swimming pool, in order for their survival instincts to kick in. While we definitively don’t approve of this method, a situation like this was more than likely the origin of this idiom.

To be "thrown in at the deep end" means to make someone begin a difficult challenge (like a new job) without preparing them for it. As we mentioned before, this idiom comes from the different ends of a swimming pool , of which one is shallow for beginners while the other is deeper and more suitable for experts.


From Nike to Plato: 11 Commonly Mispronounced Words and Names

Published on March 9, 2024

Credit: Joao Tzanno

You are very likely to be unknowingly mispronouncing some words in your vocabulary. But that’s true for most people, and it is perfectly fine! English is a language characterized by its phonetic inconsistencies, and having a ton of loanwords that often retain their original pronunciations also doesn’t help. So, there is really no other way to learn than to look for the correct pronunciation somewhere else.

Check out our list of 11 commonly mispronounced words, names, and brands; you might find a few surprises!



Credit: redcharlie

Don't say: porsh

Say: por-shuh

Porsche, the epitome of luxury automobiles, is sort of a tongue twister for many. Pronouncing it porsh' may be a common pitfall, but the correct rendition of the brand is por-shuh . The name pays homage to its founder, Ferdinand Porsche, and mastering this pronunciation is your ticket to sounding like a true automotive aficionado.



Credit: Paul Steuber

Don't say: nyke

Say: nai-kee

You might think that after years of intense advertising campaigns, this would be a no-brainer, but many people still have problems with this one. The swoosh that adorns athletic apparel worldwide belongs to Nai-kee , not Nyke . Pronounce it correctly and honor the Greek goddess of victory, after whom the brand is named.


Louis Vuitton

Credit: Dyana Wing So

Don't say : loo-is vee-ton

Say: loo-ee vuh-taan

The luxury brand demands an elegant pronunciation, mirroring the sophistication of its iconic handbags and accessories. However, being a foreign name, it is quite understandable to not get this one right at first. It's not Loo-is Vee-ton , but rather Loo-ee Vuh-taan . Unless you are a French speaker, knowing which vowels and consonants are silent and which are pronounced can be quite confusing.



Credit: Jametlene Reskp

Don't say: tenant

Say: teh-nuht

It is surprisingly common to confuse tenant (meaning occupant) with tenet (principle). Countless examples of this mistake can be found in literature, official documents, and on national television. Even former president Barack Obama mispronounced the word during one of his public speeches. To avoid this confusion, remember that tenet only has one n , don’t throw any more in!



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Don’t say: granite

Say: gran-tuhd

Definitely, don’t take this word for granted! Unless you are making a geological pun, the correct pronunciation will always be gran-tuhd. Although it seems easy to realize that these are completely different words, in normal speech we tend to leave some consonants out, leading to many confusing mix-ups. Both in granted and granite , the final d and t sounds are - more often than not - not fully pronounced, resulting in very similar pronunciations.



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Don’t say: kway

Say: kee

A quay (also called a wharf ) is a structure built next to water with the purpose of loading or unloading cargo or passengers from ships. If you happen to work in a harbor or are planning to take a cruise soon, remember to say kee instead of kway . While it might feel counterintuitive, this has to do with the French origin of the word.



Credit: Kelsey Todd

Don’t say: war-chester-shire

Say: wu-stuh-shr

The savory sauce in your pantry need not cause pronunciation strife. It's not war-chester-shire nor war-sester-shire , but rather the succinct wu-stuh-shr . Named after a county in England, it might help to remember that "Worcester" actually sounds like wooster , and the shire suffix is just sher. Nail this culinary tongue-twister to impress your next dinner guests!



Credit: Brooke Cagle

Don’t say: eh-nee-wayz

Say: eh-nee-way

Easy word, eh? Well, not so much. In everyday speech, many people tend to add a gratuitous s at the end of the word. And there is certainly no s in anyway , so don’t even try to argue this one. That being said, it is somewhat accepted in informal settings, and some linguists think that it might be a heritage from Old and Middle English, where it was common to end adverbs with an -s , like in always .



Credit: Victor Freitas

Don’t say: for-tay

Say: fort

Meaning a person’s strong suit or most developed skill, forte (pronounced fort ) is often confused with the musical term forte (pronounced for-tay ), a dynamics marking found in sheet music that means that a certain passage should be played loudly. Unless you are a student at Juilliard, you are not likely to be using the latter meaning very often. This word is also derived from the French word fort , literally meaning "strong."



Credit: Johnny Cohen

Don’t say: seen

Say: shawn

Whether it's Sean Connery or Sean Bean, the name is pronounced shawn . It does not follow the rules of English pronunciation, though, so if you happen to live under a rock and never heard the name before you would be excused for not getting it right the first time. This is because Sean is an Irish adaptation of the French name Jean , also rendered as John in English. Knowing that these three are all essentially the same name can be quite helpful in remembering how to pronounce them correctly.



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Don’t say: play-toe

Say: plat-own (maybe)

Technically, the correct pronunciation of the great philosopher’s name would be something like plat-own , as it is closer to how it was pronounced in Ancient Greece. But Americans have grown to prefer play-toe (like playdough), and most would probably try to correct you if you said it any other way. So, you are on your own with this one, depending on how pedantic you want to sound.

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