Monday, May 31, 2010

To Step Up

If you were born in Brazil, chances are you just can’t seem to understand baseball and what makes it so popular in the US.

However, knowing just the very basics of baseball might be useful when communicating in English. One such case is the baseball move that originated the phrasal verb to step up, in fact a short form of the phrase to step up to the plate.

In baseball, the plate, or home plate, is where the batter ("rebatedor") receives the ball thrown in his direction. You can see the home plate at the bottom of the baseball field below:

This picture shows a batter getting ready to hit the ball. Behind the batter is a catcher, and behind the catcher is an umpire ("juiz").

See a white five-sided mat set at ground level right below the batter? That's the plate. It is made of rubber, mind you, and is used to identify the batter's position.

A batter stepping up to (=moving near) the home plate is the equivalent of a soccer player stepping up to the penalty spot in a shootout ("cobrança de penalty"). As the crowd cheers on and the spotlights are all on him, the batter needs to have quite a lot of confidence under the pressure of trying to hit the ball and score points for his team.

This level of confidence when stepping up to the plate in baseball is used in other areas of life to mean "assumir responsabilidade", "não se omitir", "não se furtar da responsabilidade". For example:
  • Casas Bahia's Customer Service really stepped up to the plate for me and solved my problem. Their staff was respectful and in two days they shipped me a brand new TV set.
Often times, people use the short form to step up:
  • He finally stepped up and asked her to marry him.
  • If you want this promotion, you're going to have to step up. [mostrar que é capaz; fazer por onde]
In this video, candidates of The Apprentice use the phrase to step up to say that they can "tomar iniciativa", "vestir a camisa" or "chamar a responsabilidade para si."

That's it. Till next time!



Wil said...

Wow, como esse menino escreve bem em inglês, que orgulho do meu amiguinho!!!

Wil said...

Edu, como sabes não sou fã de esportes e muito menos de um esporte que não tem nada a ver com a nossa cultura, mas de tanto ver filmes sobre o tema a gente acaba se familiarizando com alguns desses termos. Também não sou grande fã de Stephen King, mas quando estava na União uma de minhas turmas teve de ler uma edição condensada de "The girl who loved Tom Gordon" (que eu saiba não há tradução em português) e aí fui atrás do livro original ( para tentar entender as metáforas da história que ficaram muito obscuras na edição simplificada. Acabei gostando muito do livro, que fala de uma garotinha que se perde numa floresta e usa seu amor pelo baseball e pelo jogador Tom Gordon (que realmente existe) em particular para conseguir sobreviver. If you ever read this book (I can lend it to you if you like) I'd love to discuss its meaning with you, since it's so metaphoric.

Wil said...

Acho que o link da Cultura saiu errado. Olheleaítraveis:

Wil said...

Ah, já sei qual é o problema do link: não tem esse 1 que apareceu no final por algum motivo.

Wil said...

Teacher, I have a question: You used the phrase "till next time" in the end. I'd never seen that before, only the phrase "see ya". Could you please step up and enlighten me in the correct use of "until" and "till"?

Bem-vindo! said...

Will, thank you for your kind words. Such a compliment coming from you!
The book you mention does sound interesting. Hope I can get my hands on it.
As for the phrase "Till next time", it is commonly used by radio/TV show hosts to mean "By for now" or "Until we meet again". I half meant it as a joke. Also, most native speakers if asked would consider that there's no discernable semantic difference between 'till' or 'until'. Your question inspired me to write a post, so look out for more about it!

Wil said...

Bem-vindo, my question was not about the difference between till and until, sorry for not making myself clear, but about the use of these two words. For example, I always heard they're not used meaning direction ("he walked until the post office" would be Portuguese interference, as far as I know), but only for time (I'll wait only until two o'clock). Am I correct on this?
I'll lend you the Stephen King book next time we meet, is that ok with you? Can you wait until then?

Eduardo de Araújo said...

Wil, indeed the English 'until' works fine with time -- but not with place.

It can however be used to mean, 'keep doing somthing until you get to a place', as in:

"Walk straight ahead until you get to the school and then turn left."

Here, 'until' does not indicate the endpoint or destination. Rather, it indicates that one will continue to walk until one sees something. You may very well render the same idea like this:

"Walk straight ahead until you see a big school, then turn left at the school."

'Until' here refers more to the duration of walking, rather than a specific endpoint. One should rather say:

"I'll walk to the red bech and then back"

Yes, the confusion might stem from transfer from Portuguese. As I understand it, many other languages use their equivalent 'until' for both time and palce.

Hope this helps!

Eduardo de Araújo said...

Please read 'bench' where it says 'bech' above.

Wil said...

Thank you!