Favorite

Words, June 3 

"Ronald Reagan spent twenty-five years on the lecture circuit, honing his toastmaster's chops to such burnished perfection that any kid in the 1980s could imitate his amiable head tilts and the soothing susurrus that bathed his every line."

Susurrus is onomatopoeic; the word sounds like the thing it refers to – "a soft murmuring or rustling sound, a whisper."

Hi ("Pop") Fligh writes:

"Why do we say someone or something peculiar is out of left field or out in left field? How did left field come to be home of the strange?"

Good question, Pop (if I may address you informally). I've wondered myself. Some say it has to do with left field's remoteness from the heart of the game, but right field is just as remote, and in the lower levels of baseball, more likely to be occupied by an athletic misfit. I can vouch for the truth of a column by Ron Fimrite in the San Francisco Chronicle (quoted in Paul Dickson's New Baseball Dictionary):

"There was but one position to which the clods, the kids with glasses, the little guys, the sissies, the ones that got good grades, the kids who played with girls, were exiled. That would be right field, the Siberia of my youth. Right field was the back of the bus, the slow-learners class, the children's department, a sideshow . . . Anyone directed to play right field would have given anything to 'be out in left field.' "

There's no sure answer to Mr. Fligh's question, further proof of the adage "Questions are easy. Answers are hard." Dickson cites a couple of theories: (1) "The phrase was an insult heaped on kids who were stupid enough to buy left-field seats in Yankee Stadium, which for many years would have put them far away from a right fielder named Babe Ruth," and (2) "The phrase was a specific reference to the fact that there was a mental hospital, the Neuropsychiatric Institute, in back of left field in the old West Side Park in Chicago."

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Doug Smith

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Most Shared

Latest in Words

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Arkansas is the perfect place to try out this new health trend. Read all about the what, why, where and how here.

Event Calendar

« »

March

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Worse than N.C.'s bathroom bill

    SB 774 extends birth certificate requirement to bathrooms in all public facilities, and that's an original birth certificate, too.
  • Attack the poor

    If there is a unifying motif to the labors of Congress and the Arkansas legislature this spring it is to make life harder and existence more intolerable for the poor.
  • Don't cry for Robert E. Lee

    Congratulations are in order for Governor Hutchinson. He decided this year to devote the weight of his office to end the state's embarrassing dual holiday for slavery defender Robert E. Lee and civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: City Board discovers LRSD

    • You reap what you sow, the seeds were planted when the Max Brantley's of LR,…

    • on March 20, 2017
  • Re: More on pits

    • Diane, as noted above, this is a *column* not a news piece. So yes, it's…

    • on March 20, 2017
  • Re: More on pits

    • It's just amazing being told by a college professor that an editorial column is, um,…

    • on March 20, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation