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A Language Home Run

After a 108-year drought, the Chicago Cubs made it to the World Series and won it, which is not just a major event for Cubs fans, but for baseball fans in general. One would think that this event is only relevant in the U.S., but you may be surprised to know that baseball is the main sport in many Caribbean countries. There is probably no other game that is more popular amongst Central American and Caribbean countries, where even Venezuela (which technically belongs to South America) and Mexico are included in the bunch, than baseball. This sport and the national leagues in these countries bring more people together on a weekly basis than soccer or even basketball. With good reason, some of the greatest names and Hall of Famers in baseball are from these countries. Baseball is so embedded in Caribbean culture that even its terminology is part of daily conversation and part of the slang that gets used on a regular basis.

As happens with a lot of sports terminology, the English name or term for most plays and events is used to describe what goes on in a game, and as we’ll see ahead, in life itself. Words such as “Strike” or “Out” are two of the most common examples. Not only are they used in common English idioms such as to “strike-out” or saying “that was your second strike” and “one more strike and you’re out;” but they are also part of Caribbean Spanish slang such as estar ponchado (to strike-out), used when you are out of chances. Although a few terms have been fully translated into Spanish, most terms are just the English words pronounced with a Spanish twang, eg., Flái  (Fly ball), Fául (Foul ball), Inin (Inning) and Jonrón (Home Run).

Other examples of such terminology used in everyday conversations amongst Caribbeans are expressions such as estar en 3 y 2 which translates into “being in Full count,” which means to be faced with a difficult decision. We also have me agarró fuera de base which means to be “off base” which is when something happens by surprise or without expecting it. Another interesting baseball-related slang term is hacer un doble plai, which means to “make a double play” or to be able to do two things at the same time; similar to the expression “killing two birds with one stone.”

These are only a few examples of the influence of baseball in Caribbean culture. Central American and Caribbean countries are very unique when it comes to language use and expressions, so if you want to fit in next time you visit these places, it’ll be good to learn a little something about baseball before planning your trip.