"ringer" = someone with unexpected assets?

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Thu Oct 16 07:06:47 UTC 2008

On Thu, Oct 16, 2008 at 12:27 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
> For me, "ringer" doesn't only mean someone (such as a horse)
> substituted for another competitor fraudulently.  In other contexts,
> it can mean someone who arrives with unexpected capabilities.  (The
> example I have is a copyeditor who knew enough about the subject
> matter to help the author improve the text -- pointing out errors, etc.)
> This sense doesn't seem to be in the OED, and a superficial look on
> the Internet failed to turn it up either (Google "define ringer",
> Wikipedia, urbandictionary).

NOAD2 includes this def:
a person who is highly proficient at a particular skill or sport and
is brought in to supplement a team or group of people: "league
eligibility rules had grown flexible to accommodate new teams, and
ringers began suiting up."

RHUD has:
a substitute or addition, as a professional musician hired to
strengthen a school orchestra: "We hired three ringers for the
commencement concert."

--Ben Zimmer

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

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