[Ads-l] "Official Ephus" and eephus?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Dec 16 14:40:54 EST 2019


Has anyone in the thread cited the OED (negatively informative)
etymological note, reproduced below?  ("sense 2", as noted upthread, is 'a
slow pitch having a high arcing trajectory')

Origin unknown.
It is often suggested that sense 2
<https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/54144667?redirectedFrom=eephus#eid1214576800>
originates from a comment said to have been made by Maurice Van Robays
(1914–65), then outfielder of the Pittsburgh Pirates, when Sewell used this
pitch in a 1942 exhibition game: ‘Eephus ain't nothing, and that's a
nothing pitch’. Chiefly on the basis of this, an origin < Hebrew *'ep̄es*
‘end, extremity’, (usually) ‘nothingness, nothing, zero’, is often
suggested. However, there appears to be no evidence that either Sewell or
Van Robays was Jewish or knew any Hebrew; the English word would be
expected to show /ɛ/
<https://public.oed.com/how-to-use-the-oed/key-to-pronunciation/> as the
initial vowel if the Hebrew word was the etymon; and the earlier currency
in sense 1
<https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/54144667?redirectedFrom=eephus#eid1215717770>
suggests that the original meaning was positive, not negative.

On Mon, Dec 16, 2019 at 2:13 PM ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>
wrote:

> Mark Mandel (MAM) wrote:
> >
> > So according to this, it was Sewell's pitch but Van Robays's word, and
> the
> > sense of what he said was not "*Eephus* means ‘nothing’", but rather "
> > *Eephus* means nothing" [= is meaningless].
>
> Thanks for your response, MAM.
> The explanation in 'The Baseball Dictionary" is compatible with the
> 2004 and 2015 citations.
>
> When I read the tale about Maurice Van Robays's comment and saw the
> newspaper citations I concluded that the baseball journalists were
> interpreting Robays's comment as wordplay. Both contextual senses of
> nothing were understood. Robays may have been unaware of his own
> wordplay.
>
> Garson
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>

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