June 9, 2009


Dirt Dogs and Jinegar: a review of Dickson Baseball Dictionary 3RD Edition
by Paul Dickson (Nick Stillman, The Nation)

Maine is on the northern edge of a pocket of the country that breeds obsessive fandom for the Boston Red Sox and venom for the New York Yankees. That place is known as Red Sox Nation, and my introduction to its treacherous emotional terrain came early. When I was a kid my dad worked the night shift at L.L. Bean. It was something I grew to resent. As compensation for scant father-son time, we developed a ritual: while I slept, he would artistically fan out on the kitchen table an assortment of baseball card packs -- each with a colorful wax wrapper -- for me to discover in the morning. One day my father was home to witness me tearing into his gift of cardboard gold, and I made a crucial error: I chirped that the card I coveted was Don Mattingly's -- then the Yankees' young star first baseman. Dad snatched the packs away. "Son," he softly intoned under a frowning mustache, "that's bush."

Bush? I'm unsure if it was my introduction to the term, but I knew exactly what Dad was getting at. Under his roof, esteem for anything Yankee was unacceptable. It was downright amateur, borderline ignorant, even treasonous. As Paul Dickson explains in his impressively comprehensive third edition of The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, which features more than 10,000 terms, the origins of "bush" date to 1905, when it referred to geographical exile -- the cuts, the sticks, the bushes. Gradually, "bush" has become an enduring baseball term as well as a general condemnation of a crassly unprofessional or inappropriate person or action, something akin to "wack." Gloating in the workplace about a promotion is bush. A bully who bugs the smallest kid in school is bush. Stealing from a tip jar is bush. Defying your father's orders and admiring the perennial tormentors of his favorite baseball team is definitely bush.

The otherwise forgettable 1980's tv series, Bring 'Em Back Alive, featured one great quote, when Frank Buck told a faux samurai he was fighting: "That's not bushido, that's just bush."

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 9, 2009 7:44 AM
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