Date: Wed, 24 Jan 1996 17:54:32 -0500 From: "H Stephen Straight (Binghamton University, SUNY)" Subject: Re: out in left field This thread strikes me as particularly germane for a language-oriented discussion group, because -- to my ear -- "from out in left field" refers to an utterance (or other communicative event) that has been injected into an otherwise well-ordered discourse from a source presumed to be out of touch with (or by metaphorical extension, totally unconnected with) that discourse. The phrase usually derogates, because it implies an uninformed source. On this derogatory reading, the phrase compares to "from the peanut gallery". However, FOILF can also describe an utterance that turns out to be relevant and valuable, typically because the source turns out to be surprisingly well informed. For me, the root metaphor for FOILF -- constructed in tandem with the above interpretation(s) -- has therefore not involved WHO was in left field (a good or a bad player) nor even WHERE that player was (distant from home plate) but rather the fact that, unlike all of the other players on the field (including the right fielder, who often takes a position not much farther from "outfield" than the shortstop) the left fielder is least likely to be within earshot and therefore unable to contribute interactively to infielders' discourse. Any contribution at all "FOILF" is therefore surprising: "How can the left fielder know what we're talking about?" If the contribution turns out to be germane, this implies either that the left fielder could hear more of what was being said than we thought (because the wind was just right?) or that the discourse topic was one the left fielder had inferred from evidence other than having heard what the infielders were saying (because the sports commentary on the left fielder's Walkman had provided clues?), but more likely it will strike the infielders as an unexpected change of topic or otherwise discourse-disconnected interjection. My three cents. Best. 'Bye. Steve H Stephen Straight, Dir, Lgs Across the Curric, Binghamton U (SUNY) Nat'l For Lg Ctr, Jan-June 1996, VOX: 202-667-8100; FAX: 667-6907 1619 Massachusetts Ave NW -- Fourth Floor, Washington, DC 20036 ["sstraigh", not "sstraight"]