THE BRITISH HAVE A WORD FOR IT – EXPLANING AMERICAN BASEBALL TO THE ENGLISH

From YANK Magazine

We mangled a pinkie while catching our first fly ball of the season and consequently have been out of the line-up ever since, but we’ve never talked so much baseball in our life as we have the past few weeks. In fact, these British cousins of ours have been getting into our hair with questions about the game and we find it doesn’t translate into English worth a damn. It’s sort of like trying to describe ice to a gent who’s spent his whole life in a bamboo hut on the equator.



british baseball cartoon ww2When it comes to getting even the simplest idea of the great American pastime across to a Briton, the vocabularies of the two nations a far apart as it is from here to Ebbets Field. You’ve got to start somewhere—but where? The natural place is home plate, but the chances are your listener thinks that’s something in the family china closet. He knows what a ball is but that’s about all—he has no conception of what four balls are or what a fair ball is or a foul one. A strike is fairly easy for him to catch onto if the batter swings and misses, but, he’d like to know, how come a strike if the batter doesn’t strike? Only the Briton doesn’t call it the batter. The guy’s a batsmen—not, of course, to be confused with a batman.

The only thing to do, we’ve decided, is to give up and learn to play cricket. But not so a friend of ours, an earnest if fairly addlepated tech sergeant of the sort that tries to make Frenchmen understand his Pittsburgh American by shouting at them. We were listening to this guy in the park last Sunday as he attempted to explain a softball game that was going on to a young British chap and the way he got nowhere fast was something remarkable.

After an hour and a half of it the Sergeant was still bogged down in trying to make clear the difference between a ball and a strike, a job that was considerably more difficult for him than it might have been owing to the fact that he had neglected to tell the Englishmen the functions of the Special Service officer standing right behind the pitcher. At that point there was a neat double play and the pupil asked the Sarge what it was all about. Our friend tied himself up in verbal knots for five minutes trying to make the situation clear and then gave up in despair. “Sorry, chum,” he said. “But I guess we’d better save that for next week’s lesson.”

“Not a bit of it, chappie,” replied the Briton brightly. “It’s all really quite clear to me now. Baseball is a cunning game, isn’t it?”



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