a complete 360

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jan 25 06:10:07 UTC 2001

At 12:06 PM -0500 1/25/01, GEORGE THOMPSON wrote:
>         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."
I've heard it used for both situations too.  Last night I saw a
replay of a great run by Tony Dorsett of the Cowboys a couple of
decades ago in which he really did do a complete 360, and as you say
it happens in baseball as well, but as you say it's also used for
broken-field runs in which the player simply reverses direction to do
a 180 and someone calls it a 360.  Athletes' and sportscasters' lingo
is clearly a matter of degree.


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