Hardball and Up

blog - Baseball-ballNews broadcasts are normally given literal names such as “CBS Evening News” or “NBC Nightly News.” Some news commentary shows are simply named after the host as in “Hannity,” “The Rachel Maddow Show,” or the “O’Reilly Factor.”  Others have titles reflecting current news such as “Happening Now,” or “Your World.” In a few cases, however, the titles are metaphors designed to catch the viewers’ eyes and ears.


Hardball is the type of baseball played by professional teams, as opposed to softball played by younger players learning the game.  Playing hardball indicates that a person is talented, experienced and willing to take risks in a dangerous game.  In politics, playing hardball indicates that a politician is very serious and works at the highest levels of government.

Example: A popular television news show called Hardball is hosted by the liberal commentator Chris Matthews.

In contrast to hardball journalism, we can also have softball questions in politics. These are easy questions asked by a journalist to allow the politician to provide an easy answer and look good on TV.

Up with Chris Hayes

Another news commentary show on MSNBC is called Up with Chris Hayes.  I cannot presume to know why he chose this name, but the preposition up has many interesting semantic properties.  Given the fact that the show airs very early in the morning, the viewers must literally be up early to watch it.  However, there is also a metaphoric sense of people being up on the news, as in the phrase, “what’s up?” I am sure that the creators of the show enjoy this double meaning of the viewers being up early and up on the latest news. I have heard that the twitter hashtag for fans of the show is #uppers, originally created as a joke, referring to the stimulant drugs by that name, now referring to the people who get up early to watch the show.

Next time:  With all the college football bowl games on TV this week, can you think of any football metaphors?


4 thoughts on “Hardball and Up

  1. I teach a class to junior high students, and I am thrilled to see something of this quality in higher level thinking language. That is what the metaphors call us to do, THINK!

    1. Thank you for the nice compliment Kathy! I would interested to know what your students think about political metaphors. Do they watch the news? Read news magazines? Do you use any lessons to help your students think about metaphors or American politics?

    1. Good point! I assume that “up and down” votes are derived from the practice of giving a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” as a way of voting or indicating approval or disapproval. (Although the credit for this practice is usually given to the ancient Romans, it is more likely due to pilots in World War II.) The notion of “up” normally denotes something good, while “down” means bad, partially for that reason. Thanks for the comment!

Comments are closed.