In Honor of the 2016 Olympic Games: 5 Popular American Idioms Derived from Sports

In Honor of the 2016 Olympic Games: 5 Popular American Idioms Derived from Sports

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by "Slangman" David Burke

Sports have always been the most popular American pastime. And with the 2016 Olympic Games upon us, it's all anyone can talk about! But sports don't just entertain or offer us good physical health. They have changed the way we speak and have added some of the most colorful expressions to our everyday vocabulary. Learning these idioms will help you speak like an American right off the bat ("immediately" - baseball) so don't throw in the towel ("quit" – boxing) because now is your chance to go for the gold ("do your very best" – Olympic Games) and learn the REAL American English used by the natives. The ball's in your court! ("It's up to you to continue!" – tennis)

1. To throw someone a curve (from baseball) = to surprise someone in a negative way.

In context:

Anne said she was taking me to a boring business dinner, but when we got to the restaurant, it turned out to be a surprise birthday party for me! She really threw me a curve!

In Slangman's "Real Speak":

Anne said she w'z takin' me to a boring business dinner, b't when we got ta the restaurant, it turned out ta be a serprise birthday pardy fer me! She really threw me a curve!

Origin: This expression is short for "to throw someone a curve ball." In baseball, the pitcher often throws a ball that starts straight, then suddenly and unexpectedly, curves.

2. "He shoots, he scores!" (from basketball) = said of someone who tries hard to do something and is successful at it.

In context

You got an A on all your finals? Wow! He shoots, he scores! In Slangman's "Real Speak":

Ya god 'n A on all yer finals? Wow! He shoots, 'e scores!

Origin: During a basketball game, if a player makes the shot (an attempt at throwing the ball into the hoop), the announcer shouts, “He shoots, he scores!” literally meaning, “He is successful at making the shot and earning points for his team!”

3. Hitting below the belt (from boxing) = to do something nasty and unfair to someone.

In context

I can't believe Steve lied and told everyone at our school that I'm mentally unstable, just so he would win the student election! That was really hitting below the belt!

In Slangman's "Real Speak":

I can't believe Steve lied 'n told ev'ryone 'id 'are school thad I'm mentally unstable, jus' so e'd win the studen' election! That w'z really hidding below the belt!

Origin: In boxing, it is considered unethical to disable one’s opponent by hitting him below the belt where he is most vulnerable.



4. To go off the deep end (from swimming/diving) = to go crazy.

In context

Our math professor always seemed really stressed out. After forty years of teaching, last week he finally went off the deep end and quit!

(NOTE: Yes! You could even combine two sports idioms and say, "He went off the deep end and threw in the towel!")

In Slangman's "Real Speak":

'Are math prafesser aw'ways seemed really stressed out. Afder fordy years 'a teaching, las' week 'e fin'lly wen' off the deep end 'n quit!

Origin: When a person who can't swim falls into the deep end of the pool, he or she loses all control.


5. To be in the home stretch (from horse racing) = to be close to completion. In context

You only have another hour and you'll be finished with your report! You're in the home stretch! In Slangman's "Real Speak":

Ya only have another hour 'n you'll be finished w'th yer report! Y'r in the home stretch!

Origin: In horse racing, the home stretch is the last length of straight track before the finish line.

* "Real Speak" is the way Americans really speak, using everyday contractions and reductions. 


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