Throw a curveball and throw a curve

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Throw a curveball and throw a curve are American idioms. We will examine the meaning of the idioms throw a curveball and throw a curve, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

The expressions throw a curveball and throw a curve mean to surprise someone, to do, say or want something unexpected. To throw someone a curveball or to throw someone a curve often means to do something that puts them at a disadvantage.

The phrases throw a curveball and throw a curve are derived from the American game of baseball. A curveball is a type of pitch that has a spin on it, making it deviate from a straight path through the air.

The first curveball, also known as a slow ball, was thrown in the 1870s. The idiomatic use of the phrase throw a curveball didn’t come into use until the 1910s. The phrase is sometimes shortened to simply, throw a curve.

Related phrases are throws a curveball or throw a curve, threw a curveball or threw a curve, throwing a curveball or throwing a curve. Note that the Oxford English Dictionary lists the word curveball as a closed compound word, with no hyphen or space between the words.

Examples in a Sentence

Other dictionaries list it as an open compound word with a space between the words, as in curve ball.
The ventriloquist has now claimed producers threw him “many curveballs” prior to his performance and was left “gobsmacked” and “traumatised” by the events that unfolded.  (The Huffington Post)

When life throws you a curveball, and do not worry – this is not the last one, we can either curse it, swing at it, try and dodge it, or stay in the game and wait for the next pitch.  (The Guardian Liberty Voice)

But are you proud of your actions, spoken words or emotions when life gets a little tense, off track or throws you a curve? (The Midland Reporter-Telegram)

“Hardball’s” Chris Matthews threw a curve Monday night at South Bend Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg during a televised town hall program on MSNBC at Fresno State University in California. (The South Bend Tribune)