If you happen to visit the BBC website’s Sports page, you will notice significant coverage of the Ashes between England and Australia. The Ashes relates to the sport of cricket. At the moment England is losing to Australia – bad news indeed
When I posted a series of cricket idioms on my Facebook page the other day, I received a number of comments asking me what was cricket. The questions came from a predominantly European audience. It’s not a surprising question as cricket is very much a British sport.
Cricket is a sport that I would say is similar to baseball but which is traditionally played over a number of days rather than on one day. There are shorter formats of the game now to accommodate those who actually have to work! I have to admit to knowing practically nothing about cricket despite having lived in the UK for 28 years.
The sport started in England and has its roots firmly in this country. If you want to know more about the history of cricket and the rules of the game click here.
When cricket started in the early 18th century, it was very much seen as a gentleman’s game. It wasn’t too physically demanding and could be played even by all older gentlemen. And as these gentlemen came from the upper classes of society, many practices such as luncheon and afternoon tea became rituals of the game of cricket.
The British took cricket with them to their colonies thereby introducing the sport to India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean islands of Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago to name a few. Today, cricket is a national sport for India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, more than football.
Just as cricket conjures up images of all things English, so too do the 8 idioms that I’d like to share with you here. These idioms are very much used in British English and you are not likely to hear them anywhere else. But they are a part of British culture like afternoon tea is.
1. to have a good innings – to have enjoyed a positive period of time. It’s often used to describe someone who has lived a long life.
Example: “I heard that Tom passed away last week. Well, he was 95. He had a good innings”
2. be cricket – to play fair, to use gentlemanly conduct (usually used in the negative)
Example: “The way the CEO treated the Finance Director was not cricket”
3. to hit someone for six – to surprise or shock someone
Example: “When Sally told Charles she was leaving him, it hit him for six“
4. to be bowled over – to be astonished by something, to be left speechless
Example: “I went to see King Lear the other day at the theatre. I was bowled over by the leading actor’s performance”.
5. on a sticky wicket (informal) – a difficult or awkward situation
Example: “They only have a few weeks to decide whether to accept the proposal. They’re on a sticky wicket”.
6. to be stumped – to have no idea, to not know how to solve a problem
Example: “I really don’t know how to fix this problem. I am completely stumped“.
7. off one’s own bat – to do something because you want to and not because someone tells you to
Example: “I came here off my own bat because I wanted to.”
8. to catch someone out – to outwit someone
Example: “It was obvious that Peter didn’t know what he was talking about when the CEO caught him out. I felt so sorry for Peter“.
The next time you read or watch anything in British English, look out for these idioms and try and work out their context.
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Ciao for now.
How about “on the back foot”?
I hadn’t realised it was a cricketing idiom. If it is, absolutely.