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Did I Really Lose That Money?

One of my many jobs is to officiate youth sports such as volleyball, softball and soccer. I find it a great financial supplement and it helps me get my sports fix.

One of the drawbacks of such a job is that games sometimes get canceled or postponed due to rain, fire, excessive heat or a school not having enough players to field a team. When that happens, and I can’t work the rescheduled date, I lose money.

Or do I? People tell me that I really don’t lose money because I never had it. And it’s true that lost means “no longer possessed,” among other definitions.

Yet although I never had it, I had an agreement that if I showed up and officiated, I would get paid. Circumstances beyond anyone’s control interfered with that agreement, so I did not work and did not get paid.

Maybe what I should say is, “I lost the opportunity to make the money.” Good thing I never spend the money until I get it.

Furthermore, to lose means “to suffer the deprivation of,” and I certainly feel like I suffer when I don’t get the money. My wallet is deprived. Yet the examples given with this definition are “to lose one’s job” and “to lose one’s life.” In those instances, a person would have had a job or a life before losing it; I never had the money, only an agreement.

To the wordsmith, it might seem clear that I have not lost any money. I can assure you that to the self-employed person scrambling and hustling and trying to make a decent living in a city where it is becoming increasingly difficult to make a living wage, it feels like I lose money every time.

Until next time! Use the right words!


March 20, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Protect the Plate?” Why?

The World Series starts today, and while I would like to write about all the times I got annoyed at people mentioning it has been 108 years since the Cubs won and nobody mentioned that it had been 71 years since the Cubs had even been in it, I’m sticking with word usage.

Today’s baseball-themed topic comes from the softball diamond, but I remember hearing the same words as a Little League Baseball player in my youth: “Protect the plate.”

Typically, when a batter has two strikes on him/her, a coach reminds the batter to “protect the plate,” that is, if the ball is a strike — or if it looks like it will be a strike — swing.

I thought about this today. Home plate is a five-sided slab or rubber set at ground level. What protection does it possibly need, except perhaps 1) to sweep away the excess dirt, 2) stop pitched balls from hitting it, and 3) stop batters from aggressively pounding their bats on it, which leaves discoloration marks?

This is another example of a baseball term that doesn’t mean what it should (see: foul pole). What we really should be saying is, “protect the strike zone.”

It is the strike zone, the space a pitched ball must pass through to be called a strike (if the batter does not swing) that matters. So, don’t protect the plate, protect yourself and swing at a pitch in or near the strike zone.

Now, go Cubs.

Until next time! Use the right words!

October 25, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Questions and Answers

As I waited for my softball field to become available (thanks to the umpire on it, we were now running 40 minutes behind — God, I hate umpires who don’t know how to keep games on time — I spoke to my umpire in chief about various softball-related matters. I asked questions and he gave insights thanks to his 30-something years of experience.

Finally, I said, “I have a question.”

He responded, “You just did.”

I said, “No I didn’t. That was a simple declarative sentence. Now, I had a question, in fact, I had many questions, and you answered them.”

He laughed.

Writing about this a few days later, it reminded me of similar exchanges I’ve seen in which a person raises his/her hand to ask a question, only to have the question answered before called upon.

The speaker finally acknowledges the questioner by saying, “Do you still have a question?” or something to that effect.

The person responds, “No, you answered it.”

Actually, the person still had the question, but it was answered. It would be more correct to say, “Yes, and you answered it” or “Yes, but you answered it.”

Any questions?

Until next time! Use the right words!

It’s here! My début book, “If You Experience Death, Please Call: And Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language” is available on Amazon for only $14.95.  Order here.

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Outside is Outside

I umpired a softball game this week, which required me to stand behind home plate and call balls and strikes. So far, in six years, I’ve not been hit in the man region severely, nor have I had any bones broken or sprained.

But I digress.

Standing behind the plate also means I hear things, such as cheers.

I also hear catchers ask me questions. Usually, they want to know why I called a pitch a ball. This time, a 12-year-old catcher asked me, “Was that a little bit outside or a lot outside?”

I said, “It doesn’t matter. It was outside.”

The coach, sitting in the dugout, heard this exchange and laughed.

Until next time! Use the right words!

It’s here! My début book, “If You Experience Death, Please Call: And Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language” is available on Amazon. Order now for just $14.95.  Order here.

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Freddie Mercury Gets No Respect

When I was a kid playing Little League baseball, none of my teams had cheers that we would randomly shout during the games. In fact, until I reached college and started covering the softball team, I had never heard of such a thing. Like we really needed to be chattering in the dugout to keep things going.

These cheers extend all the way down to the youth level. They vary in creativity and length, but there is one in particular that gets my attention. It’s one in which the girls, to the tune of Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” start singing:

Turned on my radio, what did I hear?

Elvis Presley singing our cheer;

Singing we will, we will rock you down, shake you up

Like a volcano  ready to erupt …

First of all, I always get a kick out of children name-checking someone who not only died long before they were born, he was dead before some of their parents were born (I was 9 on the day Elvis left the building).

Second, and this is pertinent here, the kids should really be saying, “… Freddie Mercury singing our cheer …” because it is Mercury’s vocal they’re aping. Too bad he doesn’t get the credit (nor does Brian May, who wrote the song).

I think it’s because Elvis is so much more famous (even though he died in 1977; Mercury died in 1991 — after many of these kids’ parents were born). Then again, I don’t know who writes these cheers.

Until next time! Use the right words!

It’s here! My début book, “If You Experience Death, Please Call: And Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language” is out and available on Amazon. Order now for just $14.95. Contact me on my website to reserve your copy or Order here.

November 3, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Coaches Say The Funniest Things

Yesterday, as I umpired a under-12 softball game, the batter hit a fly ball to center field. There was a runner on third base, so I expected the runner to tag up and try to score after the outfielder caught the ball.

That didn’t happen. The runner wasn’t on third base, so she couldn’t tag up. The outfielder paused a moment before throwing the ball back to the infield. This displeased the coach, who shouted from the dugout, “(Name of outfielder), when you’ve got a live runner on third, you’ve got to throw it in immediately!”

As the field was designed in a way that I was close to the coach, I said, “As opposed to a dead runner?”

He smiled, realizing what he had said.

Until next time! Use the right words!

It’s here! My début book, “If You Experience Death, Please Call: And Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language” is out and available on Amazon. Order now for just $14.95. Contact me on my website to reserve your copy or Order here.

October 12, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Literal Fun at a Softball Game

I umpired a softball game yesterday in which the home team came back from 8-0 and 9-1 deficits to pull to within one, 9-8. As the half-inning ended, I walked back to the scorekeeper, who told me, “Now, we’ve got a game.”

“No,” I replied, “now we have a good game. We’ve had a game all along.”

She didn’t at first like my being so literal, but once I explained that I’m a writer, she was more understanding, even laughing a little bit.

Alas, that team proceeded to give up seven more runs and lose 16-9.

Until next time! Use the right words!

May 5, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

As Opposed to “Slow Legs?”

Once again, from the People Really Should Know files (cue “Your Mother Should Know” by the Beatles):

Yesterday, as I umpired a softball game, one of the players sprinted to first base and beat the throw for a single, obviously pleasing her coach.

He shouted, “You see what happens when you use your fast legs?”

I knew what he meant: When you use your speed, good things happen.

But I couldn’t resist. I muttered, “As opposed to slow legs?”

The catcher heard me and giggled.

Until next time! Use the right words!

September 22, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “Work Together as a Team” Redundancy

From the beginning of my sportswriting career in the early 1990s, when an athlete talked about “working together as a team.” I would cringe.

This never made any sense to me. I knew then that all one needed to say was, “We worked together.” It went without saying that this football player or basketball player or soccer player or baseball/softball player or volleyball player was on a team.

I looked up team in the dictionary. It has seven definitions as a noun, and the relevant one here reads, “a number of persons associated together in work or activity.”

So, if you work together as a team, what you’re really saying is, “work together as a number of persons associated together.”

See the redundancy?

Until next time! Use the right words!

September 10, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Always a Hit When You Make Contact

I often umpire youth softball games, and a softball field is a wonderful place to hear English being used and — or so I thought — misused. Example: the word hit as it pertains to baseball or softball.

As I stood behind the plate ready to call the pitch a ball or a strike, a batter swung at the pitch. The bat contacted the ball, and the little girl ran toward first base. But the fielder successfully threw the batter-runner out at first. As the girl returned to the dugout, I heard coaches and parents shout, “Great hit!”

That got me thinking.

I know the dictionary defines hit as “to come in contact with.” But sports have their own definitions, so I figured hit referred not to the actual contact but the result of a batter or batter-runner safely reaching base (got a hit, often called a single, double, triple or home run).

I checked three official rules books (yes, that is correct; it’s not rule book) and each had a section called either “Definitions” or “Definition of Terms.”

But then I checked each book. The 2013 Official Baseball Rules has no definition for hit. Neither does the Amateur Athletic Association’s Official Rules of Softball (this was the book that was in effect for the above-mentioned scenario). Nor does the National Federation of High School’s 2013 Softball Rules Book.

It appears I struck out on the definition of hit.

Until next time! Use the right words!


March 27, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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