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Words, June 5


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Abbott was right:

A historic event occurred on ESPN the other night. The announcer of a major-league baseball game got to say “Who's on first.”

Abbott and Costello performed their famous “Who's on first?” baseball routine thousands of times. It starts with Abbott, the alleged manager of a team, identifying the players for a newcomer, Costello. The players have rather unusual names, it turns out. “Who's on first, What's on second and I Don't Know is on third,” Abbott, the straight man, says. Costello is naturally and comically confused. Here's a small segment of a long routine:

Costello: Look, you gotta first baseman?

Abbott: Certainly.

Costello: Who's playing first?

Abbott: That's right.

Costello (exasperated): When you pay off the first baseman every month, who gets the money?

Abbott: Every dollar of it. Sometimes his wife comes down and picks it up for him.

Costello: Whose wife?

Abbott: Yes.

It's funnier when you can hear it.

Many ballplayers these days have what Americans think are funny names. That's because many of the players are from other countries. In the Cubs-Dodgers game on ESPN, the name of the Dodger shortstop was “Hu.” When Hu drew a walk, the announcer leapt to say “Hu's on first.” (He leapt unaided by steroids, as far as we know.) To the ear, “Hu's on first” and “Who's on first” are identical. Thus, “Hu's on first” is scored the same as “Who's on first.” The ground rules are clear on this point.

Putting What on second will be harder, I think.


The grognards die but never surrender:

 “The influence of the grognards in either camp—radical or reform—is going to be decreased by political success.”

The original grognards were soldiers of Napoleon's Old Guard. Today, a grognard is any veteran soldier.  


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