Big league and bush league

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Big league and bush league are idioms that came into use in the twentieth century. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as beat around the bush, cut the mustard, let the cat out of the bag, hit the sack, ankle biter, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idioms big league and bush league, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Big league is an idiom that describes something that is at the highest level, competition at the highest level, or the most professional field of play, especially in a figurative sense. The idiom the big league is derived from American baseball, where the major leagues are the highest professional field of play. Big leagues is a colloquialism for major leagues or major league baseball. America baseball is organized into the American League, which includes teams such as the Boston Red Sox, the Kansas City Royals, the Houston Astros, the Oakland Athletics and the Toronto Blue Jays; and the National League which includes teams such as the Atlanta Braves, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Milwaukee Brewers, the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies. Traditionally, a player works his way up from the minor leagues to play on a big league team. The expression big league or big leagues, used in a figurative sense, first came into use in the mid-1920s.

Bush league is an idiom that describes something that is second-rate, mediocre, inept, amateurish. The idiom bush league is also derived from American baseball, where minor league teams are training grounds for raw talent to get them ready for playing in the major league. The expression bush league refers to the locations of these teams, often in smaller towns or nearly rural areas, and the state of the players coming into these teams, fresh from the farm. Today, a minor league team garners a bit more respect as it is professional baseball, but these teams are in no way comparable to major league teams. The expression bush league came into use in 1906.


Mr Sala said: “Marine Le Pen has experience and to me, the ultimate test in this world that we live in, which is a very dangerous world, is you have to be a leader who has to play in the big league with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.” (The Daily Express)

It also sends a message that the studio is willing to play in the big-league moneyball game accelerated by Netflix, Amazon, and Apple’s move into original content.  (Variety Magazine)

The wine lists that accompany brilliant food seem to me to be not much more than an afterthought, deferred and demoted by the owners to a simple, one-size-fits-all portfolio containing bush league wine, mostly, from outside the Hunter. (The Newcastle Herald)

Last year, Al Franken, a Democrat, was run out of the Senate by members of his own conference over behavior that, while stupid and offensive, was bush league compared with the accusations leveled at the Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama.  (The New York Times)