Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996 16:07:15 -0600

From: "Kathleen M. O'Neill" koneil1[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UIC.EDU

Subject: Re: why no right field?

Anyone know the background of the expression "out of left field" or "from

left field," which would seem to have a baseball-related origin

Jerry Miller

In vain, I consulted my favorite fun guide,

the Dictionary of American Idioms, by Adam Makkai.

Alas, he gives no etymology for the phrase,

only a definition (or two):

"out in left field adj. phr., informal

1 Far from the right answer; wrong; astray. ...

2 Speaking or acting very queerly; crazy...."

As far as folk etymologies go,

I can think of two possibilities:

1. From my softball days, I seem to recall that

in order to hit to left field, you had to swing late.

This could be done deliberately, if you knew you

could catch someone off-guard, say, or it could be

done out of lack of ability/confidence, etc.

2. In my experience, right field was always the

place where little league players were sent if they

weren't very good, because most little league

batters wouldn't hit out there. However, some

interpretations might allow for the "bad" player

to be in left field. Who knows?! ;)


;Kathleen M. O'Neill ... Language Laboratory Technician I ;



;University of Illinois at Chicago ... Language Laboratory ;

;703 South Morgan Street (M/C 042) ... Grant Hall, Room 311 ;

;Chicago, IL 60607-7025 ;

;312.996.8838 or 8836 ... 312.996.5501 FAX ;