running the bases

I promised a 'part two' on local fauna expressions, which I've written, but don't want to post until I've checked a source in the office. So, I hope to post that tomorrow, and in the meantime I will provide a public service to the British television-watching public.

Better Half and I tonight watched (on DVD) the last three episodes (ever! Aiiiigggghhh!) of Arrested Development. Luckily for BH, he had the remote control and a native speaker of American English sitting next to him--and he knows how to use them. This time he used them to ask: "What is second base?" Of course, this is a baseball term, and also a metaphor for sexual activities, but there's some dispute/lack of clarity about which bases stand for which activities. The (probably most) standard progression is:

first base
second base
touching above the waist
third base
touching below the waist
home run
sexual intercourse

Back in my more innocent days, before all the facts of life had presented themselves to me, my friends and I believed that first base was holding hands and second base was kissing and third base was kissing with tongues--and I have no idea what we thought a home run was. For others, second is touching outside the clothes, and third is getting inside the clothes. I'm sure there are all sorts of other permutations these days. Wikipedia has an article that includes many other baseball metaphors about sex, some of which probably have little currency outside the Wikipedia article.

Now, go forth and enjoy the final (and truncated) (BrE) series/(AmE) season of Arrested Development! (Though it seems to have been bounced off the air by snooker this week, thus postponing its tragic end.)


  1. Snooker!! No kidding!
    If there's one thing Britain has too much of, it is televised snooker and darts! Honestly, does anyone watch it? Don't get me wrong, I like snooker, I used to play it often. Darts too. But to watch it for an hour is utter torture.

    I haven't watched any tv in the UK for about 4 years, so maybe you can enlighten me. Is that horrid show, where contestants pick vowels or consonants, up to nine in total, and then have to make the longest word possible, still on television? I think it was called countdown.
    Before seeing that I didn't think gameshows got any less interesting than wheel of fortune.

  2. >If there's one thing Britain has too much of, it is >televised snooker and darts!

    Er... that's two things, isn't it?

    As for the rest of your comments, aidhoss, ...oooh! Controversial, or what? Don't forget that many of Lynne's readers are Scrabble players, most of whom have appeared as contestants on the show to which you refer!

    I also haven't watched any TV in the UK for about 4 years, mainly due to the fact that I do not have a television. I can, however, confirm that "Countdown" is indeed still on television, as the resignation of its latest presenter was in the news recently.

    Apparently he was dissatisfied with the terms and conditions of his employment. For a mere £600,000 (just over $1,000,000) per year, he had to work a whole day a week, and travel approximately 200 miles in order to do so.

    And they said slavery had been abolished!

  3. We did a post on this on and got some interesting comments:

  4. I'm trying to think if we Australians (there seems to be plenty of us) could construct a similar sporting/sex metaphor.

    but, "hit her for six" probably wouldn't go down well (no pun intended).

    Meh, who needs metaphors. Shane Warne takes a literalist approach.

    And yes, Strawman, that is two things. All I can say in my defence is that 'darts' was an afterthought and I hate using and after a comma. Linguists certainly aren't allowed to make errors, are they!

  5. Thanks for the link, Seth. I was wondering if anyone would add oral to the list. I think times have changed a lot. When I was in high school, oral sex was considered more 'personal' than 'regular' sex--beyond a home run. Then there seemed to be a shift (coinciding with the push for virginity pledges? I'm not sure) when 'doing everything but' included oral sex.

    As for Strawman and Aidhoss (new topic!), I've avoided the Countdown discussion on purpose. Aidhoss, you're treading on thin ice with the Scrabble contingent here. Watch out, these people know a lot of words and (sometimes) how to use them.

  6. The other "Brit" was a Canadian (Dave Thomas, so the accents were pretty wild, and I don't think the series people cared about it much--or maybe they were cleverly having a go at the fact that Americans are typically pretty poor at distinguishing English, Australian, South African.

    The Wee Britain plot was a bit weird--it seemed to be going somewhere, and then it didn't. But I loved (LOOK AWAY IF YOU'VE NOT SEEN THE THIRD SERIES/SEASON!!) how they lampooned the American assumption that speakers with "British" accents are very intelligent. I thought the Charlize Theron character was great--and I loved her dress sense!


The book!

View by topic



AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)