Baseball lingo

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Tue Jun 3 15:14:15 UTC 2008

On Tue, Jun 3, 2008 at 10:47 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> At 9:04 AM -0400 6/3/08, Charles Doyle wrote:
>>In last night's TV broadcast (Cox SportSouth network) of the
>>regional championship baseball game between the Univeristy of
>>Georgia and Georgia Tech, the commentator consistently used the term
>>"R.B.I." to refer to figures greater than 1--for instance, one
>>player had "posted ten R.B.I. in the tournament."  I don't recall
>>having heard that construction before.  I wonder whether the
>>commentator regards "R.B.I." as a mass noun or interpretes the
>>initialism to represent "runs batted in" as well as "run batted in."
> I know I've heard that, although it is rarer than RBIs.  (Maybe even
> rarer than "ribbies".)  I interpret it in the the latter sense, as an
> initialism for 'run(s) batted in' rather than as a mass term.

This one has come up on alt.usage.english and sci.lang every now and then...

> I wonder if there are other examples of this when there's a standard
> initialism or acronym for a nominal phrase with internal plural
> ("runs batted in" as opposed to "run batted ins" in this case).  For
> example, if (counterfactually) a potato au gratin was familiarly
> known in the restaurant trade as a "PAG", might an order of two such
> potatoes be referred to as either "two PAGs" or "two PAG"?  Or
> "BOT"/"BOTs" for 'books on tape' in library lingo?  Real live
> examples welcome.  (Of course only regular plurals need apply; the
> unmarked-plural form of "MIB" for 'Men In Black" doesn't count.)

A similar case discussed in the two most recent a.u.e threads is
"RPM". That's problematic, though, for reasons given by Mark Brader:

> The thing is that in this case the unit is rarely used for a
> thing revolving as slowly as once per minute.  So it's possible to see
> "RPM" as a plural with no singular, thus providing no trace of how it
> would have been inflected if formed from a singular.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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