a complete 360

Thu Jan 25 17:06:36 UTC 2001

        Laurence Horn, in a comment under the rubric "Politics of Personal
Destruction" writes in part: The odd aspect of the current usage is
that the meaning has changed 180 or so degrees from Clinton's
intended usage.

        This puts me in mind of something I have been meaning to post a
query about, and that is, the expression "he made a complete 360",
meaning a reversal of direction.   I believe I hear this mostly from
athletes in post-game interviews, used in a literal sence of bodily
motion or direction: He was moving one way, turned quickly and moved
in just the opposite direction.  I have also heard it used
figuratively, as of a politician who reverses his position on a
controversial issue.

        I suppose that this expression is most used by the geometrically
challenged (unlike Larry).  However, to do a complete 360 for a
moment by defending the grasp of the mensuration of a circle on the
part of at least those athletes who use the term in the sense of
physical motion, there are circumstances when a baseball shortstop
will do a complete 270, more or less -- I have seen Derek Jeter do
this.  Moving toward his left, behind second base, moving in the
direction of right field, the shortstop catches a ball in his left
(gloved) hand, transfers it to his right hand and needs to throw to
first base.  However, running as he is at a right angle to the line
toward first base, to make the short turn toward first would involve
turning the right side of his body away from the direction in which
he will throw, thereby decreasing the force and accuracy of the
throw.  Instead, he may make a long turn, turning past centerfield,
right field, third base and the pitcher and then throw to first.
Whatever time is lost in making a such a spin will be, he hopes,
regained in the better speed and accuracy coming from having his
body twisting in the direction of his throwing motion.  And, indeed,
he may wind up, after making the throw, facing right field again,
thus completing a full 360.

        Still, I think that this expression is most often found in the
simple sense of "make an about-face."


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