The biggest sporting event of the year in the US was this past Sunday night: the Super Bowl! I have to say, after living in Germany for so long (and not being the biggest football fan in the first place), I wasn’t aware that the Super Bowl was on until after it had already happened. Whoops! However, it got me thinking about how many sports idioms we have in English and wow… are there a lot of them!
Here are some of our favorite sports idioms with explanations as to what they mean and which sport they come from:
Par for the course
Par for the course comes from golf (where par is the standard number of strokes (hits) it takes to complete a hole). It means that things are standard or normal.
For example, you could say, “Stores being closed on Sundays is par for the course in Germany,” or “Waiting two months for a response (answer) from headquarters is par for the course.”
Jump the gun
Jump the gun is a sports idioms that comes from track and field when someone might start running before the signal from the starting gun is shot. It means to start doing something early, usually before you have the full details or the go ahead (green light, okay) to do so.
For example: “I jumped the gun when I bought a dress for that party because it was cancelled,” or “The car jumped the gun and drove into the street before the light turned green!”
The ball is in your court
The ball is in your court comes from tennis when the tennis ball is on your side of the tennis court and it is your turn to hit the ball. If you say this sports idiom to someone, it means that it’s his or her turn to make a decision (choice, pick something) or to make the next move.
For example, “I asked you out for dinner this time, so the ball is now in your court if you want to go out on another date or not,” or “I sent him all the paperwork he needs to sign. We have to wait now since the ball is in his court.”
To blind-side someone comes from American football when a player is tackled (pushed down, stopped) by someone from the side or from behind whom they didn’t see coming. So if you’re blind-sided, something has happened to you that you were blind to, or that you didn’t see coming literally (actually) or figuratively (so to say, in the sense).
Here’s an example: “Frank was blind-sided when his girlfriend broke up with him on the night he was going to ask him to marry her,” or “Many Hillary voters were blind-sided by the Trump victory (win) last November.”
Go to bat
Going to bat for someone comes from baseball when you go up to bat (your time to play) at home plate. This sports idiom means that you defend (protect, support) someone in a bad situation.
You can say something like, “I’ll go to bat for you if our boss is angry with your decision,” or “Thanks for going to bat for me when everyone else stayed silent during the meeting.”
Neck and neck
We use the sports idiom neck and neck, which comes from horse racing, when two horses are running at almost the same speed so that their necks are even with each other. So if you’re neck and neck with someone, you’re just about tied (even, equal, the same) with them for something.
You could say, “Tim and Sarah are neck and neck. Either of them could win,” or “The companies’ sales figures are neck and neck.”
Work some of these awesome sports idioms into your daily phrases for sportier speech!
Are there any other sport-related idioms you use or have heard before? What are some of your favorite English idioms? Let us know in the comments!
Erin Duffin lives in Berlin, is an English teacher, yoga instructor, and has tried all these tips to stay motivated when learning a language! It really works- give it a try!