Archive for November, 2009

Is Golf a Slam Dunk for President Obama?

November 28, 2009

“The Wall Street Journal”, November 24, 2009:

“Quietly, the President Finds That Golf is No Slam Dunk”
“A Star on the Court, He’s Called a Hacker On the Course; Fans Miss the Original Guy.”

Obama apparently played a “mean” game of basketball during the campaign for president, but he is not a very good golfer. “Slam Dunk” refers to what looks like an easy basket in the game of basketball. What’s interesting about this headline and usage is that an idiom used for one sport, basketball, is used in conjunction with another sport, golf.

IDIOM: slam dunk

Literal: a shot made by jumping in the air over the basket and throwing or putting the basketball into the basket.
For example: Michael Jordan slam dunked the ball to win the game for Detroit.

The metaphorical or idiomatic use of a slam dunk is a decisive action which was easy to accomplish:
“We got the business. I slam dunked the deal.”


November 25, 2009


During the second episode of Charlie Rose’s Brain Series, the topic was “The Perceiving Brain – Sight and Visual Perception With Co-Host Eric Kandel of Columbia University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Tony Movshon of New York University, Pawan Sinha of MIT, Nancy Kanwisher of MIT, and Pawan Sinha of MIT.”

Pawan Sinha Associate Professor of Neuroscience at MIT, was asked “to elaborate on the clues whereby the brain is able to put objects together?”, for example how does one get to the point where one recognizes faces.

Dr. Sinha prefaced his remarks by saying: : “It’s a whole big question, and we still are at the starting box in our understanding of how this process unfolds. “

(If you want to see or hear the transcript of this fascinating discussion go to

The starting box is the place runners wait for the signal to begin the race.

It also could be used in business for beginning a project, for example: Question: “How’s the merger going?” Answer: “We’re just at the starting box.” Out of the starting box could be used when talks are a little farther along.

I suppose the same could be said for personal relationships: “How’s the romance going?” We’re just out of the starting box.” would convey a beginning relationship. And perhaps setting up a date could be said to be at the starting box or in the starting box.

TARP Audit & Monday Morning Quarterbacking

November 22, 2009

Wall Street Journal, Friday, November 20, 2009, Opinion Page:

“In remarks Tuesday that were interpreted as a veiled response to Mr. Barofsky’s(TARP’s Inspector General’s) report, Mr.Geithner (Treasury Secretary) said, ‘It’s a great strength of our country, that you’re going to have the chance for a range of people to look back at every decision made in every stage in this crisis, and look at the quality of judgments made and evaluate them with the benefit of hindsight.”

“Mr. Geither has a point about Monday-morning quarterbacking. He and others had to make difficult choices in the autumn of 2008 with incomplete information and often with little time to think, much less to reflect.”

In reference to a game of football played over the weekend, in “Monday- morning quarterbacking” a person/persons comments on the plays in the game with “hindsight”, for instance, “Perhaps if the quarterback had passed on the third down, they would have had a touchdown.”
The quarterback calls the next play to the team during the football game.

In the case mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, the TARP Inspector General was making comments last week about decisions made last fall with the benfit of “hindsight”. He did not make the relevant financial decisions that Mr. Geithner was making. He was playing Monday-morning quarterback.

For more information about “Monday-morning quarterbacking” and football in general, please see and prior posts on this blog.

Politics Is a Local Sport in Alaska

November 20, 2009

Sarah Palin’s new book, “Going Rogue: An American Life” was reviewed in The New York Times Arts Section on Monday, November 16, 2009. In her book, Ms. Palin states “…we (in Alaska) don’t have big-league professional sports teams or many celebrities and so regard politics as a local sport.”

Big leagues or major leagues are the best in a particular sport. For example, the recent winner of the baseball World Series is the New York Yankees. A person who is famous or a business that is prominent is big-league. Minor leagues are not as important as major leagues.

The question is Sarah going to continue to be “big-league”? Being a vice-presidential candidate for the U.S., as she was in the 2008 election, is big-league, but if she fades from prominence she may become minor league.

Chinese Energy and Running Horses

November 20, 2009

NPR (National Public Radio):
On “ Fresh Air” China expert Orville Schell and host Terry Gross discussed President Obama’s visit to China. Mr. Schell explained Chinese energy after Mao in this way, and I am paraphrasing this: The Chinese put the bit in their mouth and ran with it.

This metaphor refers to a horse being harnessed and then running.

Running Interference

November 16, 2009

Running interference is usually an American football term with the following meaning: to stop or block players of the opponents team so they cannot get to the ball. For example, ” The guard ran interference for the quarterback (quarterback was running with the ball) and he made a first down.”

It can also be used in business or personal instances,
“Get Jill in accounting to run interference for you by presenting the numbers.”

You can think of a personal instance for this metaphor, but I was using it in my head as I was running to a play on 48th Street off 7th Avenue in New York City and had to dodge many people on the sidewalk. However, I misused the metaphor as I had to have people behind me trying to get somewhere and I was helping. I was just running and dodging.

Riding the Wave

November 13, 2009

The Wall Street Journal, page A2, Thursday, November 12, 2009

“Emerging Markets Face New Tests: Riding the Wave”

“Emerging market countries that let their currencies float down during the financial crisis are seeing them float up now.”

Graphs in this article shows the cumulative change from the beginning of 2007 though the 3rd quater of 2009 in weekly data for the strength of the following currencies: The Brazilian real, the Indonesian rupiah, the South Korean won, the Polish zloty and the Chinese yuan.

Surfers ride waves, but apparently so do currencies.

American Football: Monday Morning Quarterbacking

November 10, 2009

Now that it’s football season in the U.S., one can talk about quarterbacks and what they do, as well as metaphorical uses such as “Monday morning quarterbacking.”

In American (U.S.) football the quarterback directs the offensive game of the team. He calls the plays. And in many cases he is the captain of the team.

A few years ago, Johnny Unitas quarterbacked the Baltimore team to many victories. Currently, Ben Roethlisberger is the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The idiomatic/metaphorical meaning use in a non-football instance is to direct a project For example, “Harry, you quarterback the computer software buy-out.”

College football games are played on the weekend. Professional football (Pro-football) is also usually played on a weekend. The term Monday morning quarterbacking refers to discussions after weekend games, but can be used in any instance when a person talks about the game plays in football, personal transactions and what might have happened if something had been done differently.

For example, “Harry, perhaps if we had offered them more money for the same proportion of their business the deal might have gone through.”

Home Runs

November 7, 2009

A home run in baseball is a ball hit so hard that the batter can circle the bases and score a run at home base.
For example, Howard hit a home run in game six of the 2009 World Series but the Phillies did not win the series. Barry Bonds hit 70 home runs in 2001, a record.
The metaphoric usage refers to something done very well, even extremely well, in other words to be a winner.
For example: ” You scored a home run with that presentation. I think we’ll get the contract.” Or “That’s a homerun. Your good work got you the contract.”

The Major League World Series

November 7, 2009

The World Series is a seven game play-off between the major league winners of their respective leagues in the United States. The New York Yankees won four games and the Philadelphia Phillies won two.

Some metaphors/idioms, their derivation, and idiomatic usage in business.

IDIOM: minor league (player or team)
In baseball, a baseball player or team that is good, but not the best.
For example, Dom DiMaggio played for the San Francisco Seals, a minor league team, before he went to the Boston Red Sox.

Idiomatic meaning: a person, business or other entity that is not the most important.
For example, The Blue Corporation is a minor league business. Go to the boss; Jerry is a minor league player.
DERIVATION: A minor league baseball team plays in small towns and cities. Minor leagues train baseball players for the major leagues.

IDIOM: major league (player or team)
This refers primarily to baseball, but can be used for other team sports such as professional football.
Major league baseball or football teams are considered the best teams.
For example, The New York Yankees is a major league baseball team. Darrell Strawberry was a major league player. Derek Jeter is a player for the New York Yankees.
In other words, the most important person or business.
For example, the president of the Ford Motor Corporation is a major league player.

IDIOM: be in the big leagues
primarily baseball
This is the same as “to be in the major leagues”
Jackie Robinson was the first black player to be in the big leagues.
Metaphorical meaning: to be a big shot, to be a major player, to be well-known
Someone might say to you: “You’re in the big leagues now. You’re playing with the big boys.”