End of ADS-L Digest - 21 Jan 1996 to 22 Jan 1996 ************************************************ There are 10 messages totalling 303 lines in this issue. Topics of the day: 1. out in left field (2) 2. Left field/Right field 3. WOTY: cybernate 4. why no right field? (2) 5. cheap folks (3) 6. street slang ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Tue, 23 Jan 1996 10:50:50 +0000 From: "E. W. Gilman" Subject: out in left field The origin of the phrase is obscure. Paul Dickson's Baseball Dictionary mentions the phrase, but hazards no opinion of its origin. Christine Ammer's dictionary of cliches, "Have A Nice Day", offers three theories gleaned from William Safire. Two deal with distance, either to the left field wall or to the left fielder, and one claims that "in the Chicago Cubs' old ballpark" a mental hospital was located just beyond left field (this seems pretty far-fetched). Ammer says the phrase has been in use since about 1950, but cites only a 1974 example. These dates reflect our files in a general way; our earliest citation comes from 1956 and shows the phrase either not fixed in form yet, or a very un-baseballish author: in a review of "Waiting for Godot" Estragon is described as "a fellow out on left field". A couple of years later an unidentified speaker (perhaps Jack Benny) is quoted as saying "My so-called Allen feud came strictly out of left field". I expected better evidence, but there was a long-established disinterest in sports lingo back in those days. The phrase begins appearing with "in" as the usual preposition in the 1970s. E.W.Gilman