Baseball, wheelhouses, and the effects of technological change on language

 

A railroad wheelhouse. From YouTube.

If you watch baseball on TV, you’ve almost certainly heard an announcer describe a pitch as being in the batter’s wheelhouse when the pitch is in the area of the strike zone where the batter has the most success putting the ball in play. Baseball is where the wheelhouse metaphor first appeared in print, but if you don’t watch baseball, you’ve probably heard “wheelhouse” used as a metaphor for something that is in a person’s comfort zone or area of expertise.

While almost everybody knows what the wheelhouse metaphor means, many do not know where the metaphor came from or what a wheelhouse is. What is a wheelhouse and why did the connection between wheelhouses and baseball get lost?

I’ve published an article on Priceonomics titled “Wheelhouse: How technology changes the meaning of words” that ties together baseball, the nation’s transportation infrastructure, and a technological revolution to show how language can be affected by technological change. If you’re interested in any of these things- or just interested in a good story – please take the time to check it out.

Following the link to the article will also be doing me a great favor. Because pieces with sports content do not usually do well on Priceonomics, the piece was bought at a reduced rate with a substantial bonus attached if it reaches 10K views in 30 days. The people at Priceonomics warned me that they think it has about a 10 percent chance to meet that goal. It would be a boon to me if we can harness the power of social media to prove them wrong. If you would, please view the article and, if you find it interesting, ask your friends and social media friends to view it and pass it to their friends as well. Thanks.

About Kevin Murnane

I am a cognitive scientist, a freelance writer and author (Nutrition for Cyclists: Eating and Drinking Before, During and After the Ride), a musician (Parametric Monkey - stream on Spotify, Soundcloud and YouTube), a bookstore owner (Monkey Books - first edition mystery, science fiction, fantasy and more, listed on ABE books, Amazon and Biblio), and a retired house painter, children's theater actor & owner, and university professor. I'm also a regular contributor to the technology section at Forbes and I write a cycling blog called Tuned In To Cycling. You can follow me on twitter @TheInfoMonkey and contact me at murnane.kevin@gmail.com.
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