EACH MONTH, WE’LL TAKE YOU TO THE MORE INTERESTING SIDE OF LANGUAGE, ALL IN AN EFFORT TO UNPACK WHAT IS ALL THIS
Ah, the sweet days of summer. Pleasantly warm breezes, barbeques and the oft afternoon at the ballpark (at least, if you live in America). If you’ve ever been to a baseball game, you’ll know that the field is huge. One lap around the field is enough to give even a limber 30-something year-old a round of heavy breathing.
Enter the US in the 1960s, or supposedly the origin of the term. People were all about giving big names to boring stuff: NASA (complex mathematics and engineering), the Watergate Scandal (politics) and ballpark figures (estimation based on an incredibly slow sport).
The expression essentially relates to things in the ballpark are within a reasonable range; any ideas out of the ballpark are far and unreasonable.
Since its inception, the manner of usage seems to have changed little, except a slow decline. Why? There probably aren’t too many good baseball games on an iPad.
Now you try!
Use this phrase any time you need an estimate for something.
“Hey, Tom. Could you give me a ballpark figure on a divorce?”
“Ballpark figure, how many hot singles were there last night?”
“Can you tell us a ballpark figure on your salary expectations?”
Say it in Chinese!
天文数字 [tiān wén shù zì]
“Describing an astronomical or enormous figure”
The measurements applied in astronomy are usually very big, so people use this to express the significance of a figure. In many cases, it’s attributed to amounts of money. It expresses a meaning of exaggeration and difficulty to sometimes obtain.
天花乱坠 [tiān huā luàn zhuì]
“As if it were raining flowers”
During the reign of Emperor Wu of Liang in the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589), a master monk named Yun Guang explained sutra to Emperor Wu. He talked so well that Wu listened from morning till night. In the end, even heaven was moved and sent divine flowers down to the earth.
This idiom was later used to describe talking in an exaggerated and impractical manner.