Americans are crazy about sports. So if you want to talk like an American, it’s important to learn some of the sports phrases that have seeped into everyday American speech.
Paul Dickson, author of The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, says sports idioms are popular for a couple of reasons. Sports terms allow people from different walks of life to talk to each other. After all, lots of people play and watch sports. It is something almost everyone shares. And sports talk is very colorful.
Below are six common sports expressions that Americans use, along with an explanation of their meanings in both a sports context and everyday conversations.
In sports: A surprise attack on a player from a side where his or her vision is obstructed.
In conversation: To be greatly surprised by something — e.g., “Since my car only had a small scratch, I was blindsided by the big repair bill.”
Par for the course
In sports: The expected score on a golf hole is the par.
In conversation: Anything that is the expected result is par for the course.
Right off the bat
In sports: The high speed at which a ball in baseball comes off the bat.
In conversation: Immediately, as in, “I turned on my phone, and right off the bat it started ringing.”
In sports: When a basketball player throws the ball through the hoop from directly above the basket.
In conversation: Something that can be done easily is called a slam-dunk.
Down to the wire
In sports: Horses race to a finish-line wire hung above the racetrack.
In conversation: Your race to finish an assignment on time came down to the last second, or down to the wire.
Roll with the punches
In sports: A boxer avoids a direct hit by making small movements away from the blow.
In conversation: If you don’t let things bother you, that means you roll with the punches.
Other resources for learning English
The American English resource center and the American English page on Facebook are excellent online resources for learning conversational English. Podcasts and news stories, such as Voice of America’s Learning English, are also great tools for students of different levels.