Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Two bites of the cherry

Some years ago on this blog I devoted a post to sporting metaphors, mentioning in passing a couple of expressions that have to do with cricket. But  I'm returning to it because it's a particularly fruitful source.

And fruit is relevant I've never  heard a football commentator say 'That was a peach of a ball'. But for a cricket commentator a whole range of fruit is available. A ball (that is, the delivery of a ball rather than the ball itself) can be either "a peach" or "a Jaffa" (a kind of orange, named after its home area)...

(The normal pronunciation today is with an /ʌ / [as in "apple"] in the stressed syllable. But in a version of a comical song based on "the 'phonetic' alphabet" [whatever that is, but you know the sort of thing A for 'orses, B for mutton, C for yourself {a more niche variation, learnt from my mother [whom saints preserve, and they better had] had "C for th'Highlanders"} ...] I once read "J for oranges" – which suggests a pronunciation with /eɪ/ [as in "cake"]. I wonder if this was ever a normal pronunciation of "Jaffa", or if was just a rather strained [and unsuccessful] part of the joke. In its earliest form – that is, the earliest form I know – it had the wartime "Q for rations", but this was later given the less time-sensitive "Q for the cinema" [though this is itself time-sensitive in that it refers back to a time when queues outside cinemas were a commonplace ].)

.... The ball itself can be either "a cherry" or "a nut", and the word cherry can be recycled in the expression "two bites of the cherry". I haven't played much cricket (only two semi-serious games, involving whites and a hard ball, that is...

Both were at  Cambridge – one for the chapel choir, and one for Cambridge University Ladies (I did say semi-serious). The latter was a social fixture between a Corpus XI (not the Corpus XI, though it included one or two serious players) and the CU Ladies (or was it "Women"?). As I, an intended spectator (it being a Sunday afternoon affair), had made the dual mistakes of wearing white and having long hair, I made up the numbers.

In deference to the social nature of the event, the men were allowed only a short run-up. But no such allowance was made for me, and the pent-up hostility of their fast bowlers was unleashed. They were no doubt disappointed that I lasted for so few (I think 3 balls – my memory is mercifully sketchy on this traumatic episode). The first missed everything, the second hit my bat (with little or no direction on my part) and went to the boundary. The third reduced my wicket to match... 


(Does a cricket ball – making a direct hit – ever reduce stumps to anything other than matchwood, I wonder? If not, and the groundsman has done his job with the watering can, the ball knocks a stump cartwheeling out of the ground.  If there is no direct hit, the metaphor is different. The ball misses the wicket by a coat of varnish.



)... but I've heard and watched a  lot.

There are arguments for and against the exercising of the option (after a number of overs depending on the match conditions – typically 90) that the fielding side has with regard to the use of a new ball. A new one is harder, and adds to a fast bowler's fierceness. On the other hand, whereas a soft old ball is harder to score off, a new ball flies readily to the boundary.

(It is also more likely to carry to a fielder's hands...
(Yet more metaphorical foodstuff: unless he or she has "butterfingers")
...and here the figure of speech is a metonym (part for whole) with added synechdoche I think (though the naming of parts in figurative speech was never my strong point): a catch is achieved if the bowler "finds the edge".
Now then, that "two bites..." thing. Towards the end of a session, the fielding captain may take the new ball, so that the bowlers can use it before play ends (for a day or playing session) and then again, when it's still relatively new, after a rest.

 If a ball is not a "peach" or a "Jaffa", but rather the reverse, it is either "filth" or a "pie" .

(I don't have an authoritative explanation of this one, though it might have something to with such balls being "as easy as pie" to hit [though that just shifts the question away from the cricket pitch: what is so easy about pie? ] One popular "explanation" involves clowns, and the inexact throwing of custard pies; I'm not convinced.)

It is a sad but inevitable fact that most good cricketers have a Public School background ...

(and regular readers of this blog will be used to this convention (ils sont fous ces Bretons, as Astérix would say). In the UK a Public School is not [as in  many less linguistically deceitful parts of the world] a state school. A UK Public School is a fee-paying school (public to the extent that anyone with money can go...

<meta-rant counter="scholarships"type="autobiographical">
But what about scholarships? some people ask. Scholarships schmolarships. At age 11 I won a "free" place to such a school in the street where we lived, but couldn't take it up because my mother (WSPATBH [see above]), a young widow with five children and an ailing father to look after, couldn't afford the uniform.

...). Such schools can afford not to sell their playing fields [as increasing numbers of state schools must, in order to pay for little luxuries like pencils and paper, or coursebooks published relatively recently – say this century. They can also afford a groundsman, equipment, a teacher with first-class experience...

and such schools often have a "CCF" (or some similar cadet force). So many cricketing metaphors refer to the military. 

But those must wait for an update.


Update: 2020.08.14.10:50 – Added PS

PS on military metaphors:

  • Military 
    The word "military" itself is used in cricket of inoffensive bowling: "military medium". The reference is to military displays, where extremes are avoided.
  • Ram-rod straight
    This is another example of the persistence of old technologies in metaphorical language, mentioned not infrequently in this blog. A ram-rod was used to load a muzzle-loading firearm.
  • Gun-barrel straight
  • Shoulder arms
    When a batsman "shoulders arms" he doesn't play a shot and makes a flamboyant display of not doing so by resting his bat on his shoulder. The expression "shoulder arms", in its original context, was a command issued to soldiers on parade
    Shouldering arms – from

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