Hi, and welcome to The Everyday Language Podcast.
Thanks for listening, hope you’re well.
In this week’s episode, I’ll play you a conversation I had with my brother James about cricket and baseball.
James is my older brother, and he’s been a keen cricket player and cricket fan.
In the conversation that I’m going to play you, we chew the fat over the origins of cricket, and try to explain cricket to people who don’t know what the game is.
J: What is a wicket? What is a test?
J: What is a bowler?
M: Oh yeah, well, it’s like, can we use the baseball analogy here? Or is that really, is that wrong?
J: No, I think so, ‘cos I think, because I think because cricket comes from baseball or does baseball come from cricket? Either, or? I’m not sure which came first.
M: We could just say cricket because it’s, it’s from the old country right?
J: So, it must be it must be, but I think, I think I, I remember hearing that baseball was an older sport and that really annoys, er, really annoys English people. (Oh yeah),
M: Oh yeah.
J: An American blow-ins kind of thing, taking our stuff and making it worse. (Oh yeah), I think it’s the other way round.
M: It’s definitely, it’s definitely a different sport isn’t it?
J: Yeah, same principle though, you have to score runs.
M: Um, runs? Or what do they call it in baseball, home runs?
J: They call them run…yeah but it’s still a run isn’t it? Even if it’s not a home, home run, so, should we describe what cricket is? Then?
M: Yeah so, well, how many players are there?
J: There are 11 players on a team,
J: Whereas in baseball I think there are 9?
J: I think there are 9, there’s 8, there’s 8, erm, kind of, outfield players who are also the batters and then there’s a pitcher.
J: So there’s 9 on the field at any one time, and in cricket there’s 11 on the field at any one time.
M: Ah, and, er, what’s the thing about the wickets?
J: So the wicket is both the thing…that you play on, like the, the pitch, and it’s also, so if you use a baseball analogy, it’s like the equivalent of the strike zone isn’t it?
So in baseball, the pitcher has got to
J: Pitch the ball into the strike zone to get a strike whereas in cricket a bowler needs to bowl a ball to hit the wickets which are three sticks stuck in the ground.
M: But, they’re nice sticks though aren’t they?
J: Yeah, they’re very, yeah, these are these are not any old sticks, these are, these are super-refined, very straight sticks, with two little.
M: They’ve been varnished and stuff?
J: Varnished, and very round, and very geometrical.
M: You’d be lucky to find sticks like that in nature, wouldn’t it?
J: I don’t think they occur in nature. So wickets are not naturally occurring.
J: That’s fact one.
M: That’s like baseball because pitchers are not naturally occurring. You have to train them.
J: No, which aren’t? Pitchers?
M: What’s the guys that catch? Catchers?
J: Ok so in baseball you have a pitcher, which is the guy who throws the ball, and in cricket you have, it’s called bowling the ball, and the guy who that does that is a bowler.
M: Bowler, that’s it’s quite gentlemanly, isn’t it? That word, bowler.
J: Yeah it’s quite.
M: Like bowler hat, kind of thing,
J: Yeah, yeah.
M: I wonder if that’s a coincidence?
J: What do you mean between bowler hat and bowling?
M: Bowling, yeah, it’s known as the gentleman’s game isn’t it cricket?
J: Yeah, but maybe a bowler hat is called a bowler hat because it’s shaped like a bowl?
M: A bowl, oh yeah like a food bowl.
J: Yeah, rather than the action of bowling, a ball
M: Yeah, I’ve got the idea of like, er, 19-century English gentlemen, playing cricket, like they came up with all the concepts I think.
J: Yeah well it used to be, err, it used to be gentleman versus players, didn’t it?
Do you remember? Do you remember, so that’s what it was called? Players, so gentleman were like, er, these were super, er, upper-class people, usually without, er, so they, because they were so rich, they played like in the professional game but they didn’t get paid because they were so rich, and then the players were, proper professional players who earnt money from, playing, playing cricket. And they were the riff-raff.
M: The riff-raff, that’s a good word.
J: The riff-raff, do we need to define riff-raff?
M: Yeah, maybe like yeah, what is a riff-raff? Who is a riff-raff?
J: Riff-raff, well I don’t think you have, a riff-raff do you? It’s like riff-raff, is you could be part of the riff-raff?
M: Ppart of the riff-raff?
J: No, it’ not, you don’t have the riff-raff either, it’s er, you are riff-raff. It’s like a characteristic isn’t it?
M: It’s like an adjective?
J: I don’t know if it’s an adjective, because then you get, we don’t want any riff-raff around here, and that’s like a noun, isn’t it? I think it’s a noun, though you do not use “a riff raff” or “the riff-raff” it’s just “riff-raff”.
J: Hehe, riff-raff
M: So you could say those people are riff-raff get them out of here!
J: Yeah, or any old riff-raff, we don’t want any old riff-raff around here.
J: So the players, yeah, they could have been any, well they might not have been riff-raff, but they could have been riff-raff, the gentleman were definitely gentleman. And they were so rich they didn’t even need to be paid money.
M: That’s just showing off isn’t it? How rich they are.
J: It’s a little bit lording it over the players, isn’t it?
M: Um, okay so that was like, er, they were like the, er 19 century kind of people playing cricket.
J: Yeah, and they may have even wore bowler hats when they were doing it.
M: Oh yeah, so we’ve got the bowler and the wickets and then?
J: So in baseball, you have the catcher, we were talking about the catcher.
M: Oh yeah.
J: And in cricket, there’s also an equivalent called a wicketkeeper.
M: A wicketkeeper.
J: Also wears big gloves.
M: Um, helmet?
J: Sometimes, didn’t use to, but I think they do now, don’t they? When they stand up to the wickets.
M: Umm, okay, and there’s one more, one more, couple of, well a few more vital components.
J: Which is what?
M: Er the batter? The batsmen
J: The batter, er the batsman yeah, in cricket batsman, although I’ve noticed when they’re talking about women’s cricket they don’t say, batsman, because that’s a bit weird, and they don’t say batswomen they say, they say batter.
M: Batter, ah,
J: They say batter, yeah.
M: Is that like in baseball?
J: That’s like in baseball yeah, so the objective is to score runs. The bowler bowls the ball towards the wickets (um) and the batter tries to hit the ball far enough that he can run to the other end.
J: We haven’t described the ends yet, have we?
M: Oh yeah, how far is a wicket? How far is the other end?
J: I think its 20 is it 22 yards?
M: Yeah, I’m not sure actually, but it sounds about right.
J: Think its 22 yards. That’s really the objective, isn’t it?
M: Yeah, to get, to get as, as many runs as possible?
J: Yeah, before your team are out.
So in baseball batters can be out, if they hit the ball in the air and it’s caught, or if they’re three strikes.
Or if they’re thrown out isn’t it, if they hit the ball they have to run, and if they don’t get to the base in time, or the ball gets to the base then they’re out. That’s the same, the same in cricket really, except you don’t have to run.
M: Oh yeah.
M: And you can leave it, you can not hit the ball as many times as you want, in baseball can you get like, er, like a score of one hundred?
J: You could
M: You could?
J: You could, cos it’s one of those, in baseball because the game is not over until you’ve completed all the innings.
M: Oh right.
J: And in order to that you have to get 3 batters out each innings, don’t you, so if one just team keeps scoring runs until. Then that can carry on forever.
M: Ok I didn’t know that (yeah) I thought all the games that I saw tended to be low scoring.
J: Yeah they, they tend to, because it’s really hard to score runs in baseball, er whereas it’s easy to score runs in cricket. You just need way more of them to win, don’t you?
M: Oh yeah, yeah.
J: You need to score hundreds of them to win, whereas in baseball one run might be enough to win. Because it’s just, kind of a, an improbable event scoring a run, in baseball.
J: But, but if you keep, if you keep achieving that improbable thing. Then it can carry on forever until all your innings are up.
M: Ah, er, so going on to your cricket career, are you still playing?
J: No, I’ve retired,
M: You’ve retired?
M: You’ve hung your boots up?
J: Yeah, I hung my boots up; well I did come out of retirement a few weeks ago.
I played with a load of overweight, er, kind of dads, in a 20 over, erm, they call it a Taverners match, which is basically just a very casual, casual kind of a thing which is not really very competitive, it’s a kind of a match where people are smoking on the pitch and drinking on the pitch.
J: Yeah, it’s real, it’s real sport!
M: In between, batting and in between bowling?
J: Yeah that kind of thing. Er, so that was good fun, but cos it takes too long, it takes too long doesn’t it? You could be there for hours or days even.
M: Yeah, yeah, 5 days, and it’s a draw…
J: And you might not have a result, yeah exactly, whereas in baseball they stay there as long as, as long as it takes to get a result.
M: Oh right, wow.
J: Did you know that?
M: I didn’t know that
J: So you get to the end of the 9 innings each if it’s, if it’s the scores are level, then they keep, it’s like sudden, sudden death almost, they keep playing until one team is leading after each team has batted.
M: Wow, ok.
J: Yeah, whereas in cricket if there’s no winner, eventually, you say, that’s it we’re going home (hm, hmm)
M: Thanks for the effort guys.
J: Yeah, thanks for coming, (laughing)
Cricket vocabulary and phrases
the gentleman’s game – cricket is often referred to as the gentleman’s game due to its historical roots.
the old country – used to describe UK in comparison to the USA which is relatively new. This is rarely used and in this episode was meant with irony. This phrase can also be used by people who have migrated to another country to talk about their country of origin.
bowler – the player who bowls the ball at the batsman.
batter/batsman – the player who tries to hit the ball and score runs. Called a batsman because they hit the ball with a bat.
wicketkeeper/keeper – the player that stands directly behind the batsman and catches the bowl when the batsman does not hit the ball.
An innings – the period when one team bats and tries to score runs (points) .
blow-ins – a phrase for a newcomer or new arrival.
riff-raff – meaning the wrong type of person; low class; rough person.
As a noun – people, or a group of people, regarded as disreputable or worthless:
As an adjective – Worthless, disreputable, or trashy.
lording it over – a phrasal verb for being arrogant and big headed
thanks for the effort – a set phrase used to show gratitude, can be used in an ironic or joking manner when things have not gone well to show light heartedness and not to take things too seriously.
thanks for coming – as above.
The boss was lording it over everyone as he got a pay rise but no one else did.
Hang your boots up: a phrase that means to retire (often but not always used by sportspeople).
Do you play football anymore?
No, I’ve hung my boots up.
episode 3: Football chat
episode 19: Football cliches
episode 20: Football positions jargon