"pretty" in sports use?

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Mon Jul 10 16:04:33 UTC 2006

FWIW, my experience in reading through late 19th century/early 20th century baseball columns is that the term for "skillfull" wasn't "pretty" but "clever."
   In modern use I've never heard "pretty" (skillful) in reference to a person, but I *have* often heard it in reference to a play. E.g., "that was was a pretty play," or "that was a pretty shot [in basketball]."  So, perhaps "pretty" (skillful) began in reference to a skillful play and was then extended to the players.
    I'm also sending this message to SABR (Society for American Baseball Research).  Perhaps some of its very knowledgeable members can provide additional information/insight.
Gerald Cohen


From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Jesse Sheidlower
Sent: Mon 7/10/2006 10:23 AM
Subject: "pretty" in sports use?

I'm looking over some OED senses of _pretty_, which is very
complicated. One of them is more or less 'worthy; admirable;
splendid', and one of our latest solid quotes for this is:

  1938 _Amer. Speech_ (13) 6/2 _Pretty_...good; fine; excellent.
  'He was a real pretty ball player.'

There are plenty of recent quotes for things like _pretty player_
or _pretty shooter_ (which could be parsed as 'skillful; able',
perhaps, solving another postdating problem), but my tendency
would have been to regard the AS sense as obsolete, and to read
modern examples of _pretty player/shooter_ as meaning 'graceful'
or 'elegant', thus going with other senses.

Anyone who knows about sports want to clue me in?

Jesse Sheidlower

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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