Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Walking The Fine Line Between Right And Totally Wrong

Click this picture from to enlarge it, then tell me what's wrong with it.

Yes, the term "walk-off" has officially come full circle. It now means the opposite of what it originally set out to describe. I've mentioned this before here, but the reason that Dennis Eckersley coined the phrase was to describe the fact that in a bottom-of-the last-inning victory, the LOSING team is forced to walk off the field, heads hanging. You normally trot off the field at the end of an inning, but in that case, the game ends before the inning does, so you just walk off the field.

If you still have doubt about this (and you shouldn't, despite that if you're below a certain age, you might think I'm wrong because you've always heard it referred to the winning team--like Don Orsillo incorrectly does), think of it this way: In baseball, only the defense in on the field, save for a maximum of three baserunners and the batter. The defense is ON the field, so only the defense can walk OFF the field. That's what a "walk-off" is.

I guess I have to accept that the term now means the opposite. I guess you could say that the winning team is "walking off" with a win, the way a robber would "walk off" the bank's money. But by that logic, any win could be referred to as "walking off with a win."

But even if I accept it, I'll always say "terrible job" to those who continue to use this term incorrectly.

Did I just say "robber"?

"Did I just say "robber"?"

So funny!
Ha. Yeah.

Also, I just started thinking how people could say, Well after everyone comes out to celebrate, they all walk off the field. That may be true, but when you think of the origin of the term, you realize what it really means, and without that, why would "walkoff" even be thought of, when you could call it a "home plate celebration win" or a "pile-on" or something? Why would you look at a dramatic ending with a big on-field celebration and think to describe not those things, but the slow, post-celebration walk to the dugout? (And, once again, the winning team always comes out onto the field after a win and then walks off the field, meaning by this logic, ANY win would be a walk-off. The whole key to this is that a game most often ends with the winning team in the field--on the rare occasion when the game is won at the plate, the team in the field is left to just walk away.)
It's a fairly new term, so it isn't weird that it is evolving. Language evolves, it isn't like Eckersley called a joint press conference with merriam-webster to create the word. This reminds me of the Calvin & Hobbs strip about "verbing" words, where you take a non-verb and turn it into one. Like "access" for example. This seems kind of like that, the noun/adjective form describes the loss side: "walk-off win" retains the original form in the sense that one of the teams walked off the field. But "Red Sox walk off WITH the win" is the verbed, incorrect type. It seems like walk-off is becoming one of those rare words that have multiple contradictory meanings, like "cleave" or "sanction." An auto-antonym! Maybe you should add it to this list:
Maybe it now means that after you win, you don't have to run around the bases, or even jog. There is no one coming up behind you that you need to move off the field for.
Laura is addicted to reading the diary (now online) of Samuel Pepys.

There are many words from the 1660s that now mean the exact opposite of what they meant in Sam's time.

Sadly, I have no examples.
I should check that out--I got it for my my for Xmas one year. I remember it being a big deal at the time, but I knew nothing about it.

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Location: Rhode Island, United States