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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921.

Appendix 1. Specimens of the American Vulgate

2. Baseball-American

[I AM indebted to Mr. Ring W. Lardner, author of “You Know Me, A1,” for the following. It combines the common language with the special argot of the professional baseball-players, a class of men whose speech Mr. Lardner has studied with great diligence.]

[Plot: The enemy has fallen on our pitcher and scored five runs. The side is finally retired and our men come in to the bench, where the manager awaits them.]

MANAGERWhat the hell!

PITCHER (indicating the catcher)—Ask him!

CATCHER—Ask yourself, you yella bum! (To the manager) He’s been shakin’ me off all day.

MANAGER—What was it Peck hit?

PITCHER—I was tryin’ to waste it.

CATCHER—Waste it! You dinked it up there chest high. He couldn’t of got a better cut at it if he’d of tooken the ball in his hand.

PITCHER (to the catcher)—You could of got Shawkey at the plate if you’d of left Jack’s peg hop. He never even hit the dirt.

CATCHER—It would of been a short hop and I couldn’t take no chance. You wasn’t backin’ up. You was standin’ over in back of third base, posin’ for a pitcher (=picture) or somethin’.

MANAGER (to the catcher)—What the hell happened on that ball on Bodie?

CATCHER—He (referring to the pitcher) crossed me up. I ast him for a hook and he yessed me and then throwed a fast one.

PITCHER—It was a curve ball, just like you ast me, only it didn’t break good.

MANAGER (to the pitcher)—And what about Ruth? Is that all the more sense you got, groovin’ one for that big ape! You’d of did better to roll it up there.

PITCHER—The ball he hit was outside.

MANAGER—You mean after he hit it. For God’s sakes, use your head in there! This ain’t Fort Worth!

PITCHER—I wisht to hell it was!

MANAGER—And you’re li’ble to get your wish!


In there: In the pitcher’s position.

Up there: In the batter’s position.

Shakin’ me off: Refusing to pitch the kind of ball I signalled for.

Waste: To pitch a ball so high or so far outside that the batsman cannot reach it.

Dink: To throw a slow ball.

Hook: A curve ball.

Peg: A throw.

Hop: To bound.

Hit the dirt: To slide.