When something comes “out of left field,” that means it was surprising or unexpected.
Example: Cole has become heavier over the years. He has wanted to go on a diet for a long time now, but he never always puts it off until later. Finally, he’s had enough! Cole is determined to lose weight, but that determination was quickly put to the test when out of left field, his wife came home with a box of donuts.
In other words, his wife surprised him with the donuts; it was unexpected.
The Origin Of “Out Of Left Field”
It’s believed that this phrase comes from baseball. However, its exact origin, how it came from baseball, is not clear. Let’s talk about this.
In baseball, there are three outfield positions—the right fielder, the center fielder, and the left fielder. If a ball is hit hard enough, the outfielders will either try to catch it, or they will attempt to retrieve the ball as quickly as possible and throw it back into the infield.
Obviously, the saying ‘out of left field’ is referring to the left side of a baseball field, and the thing coming ‘out’ of it would be a baseball, right? But why specifically the left field, what about the others? Well, concerning that, there’s one explanation that suggests this:
Imagine this scenario. A batter has just hit the ball and there is a base runner sprinting towards home plate. In this situation, the base runner would be facing away from the left field. So if the left fielder scoops up the ball and throws it to home plate, the runner would be unable to see it, thus it would come as a surprise to him.
So perhaps this is how the phrase specifically originated from this sport. In any case, it must have come from baseball in some way. And then later, it became an idiom that started to be used outside the sport of baseball to mean “to be surprised by something.”
The first sentence below will use the phrase. The other sentences will use synonyms for this phrase. They mean the same thing:
- It was a nice day out, so I decided to go for a little stroll around the block. Everything was going okay until out of left field a small chihuahua started running at me barking. It was cute!
- Todd was getting some much needed exercise by walking on a treadmill. He was half-way done when out of the blue his leg got a cramp, so he had to stop.
- Susan was a fantastic guitar player, but her friend had no idea about her musical talent. So when they met up together and Susan pulled out her guitar, it took her friend by surprise.
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