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Re: In/on and overdramatization

Posted by R. Berg on September 06, 2002

In Reply to: Perceived Degrees Of Penetration posted by Bob on September 05, 2002

: : : : : : : : Hi All,
: : : : : : : : New to the discussion group, and need help. Why, in baseball particularly, does an errant pitch strike a player "on the leg," "on the arm," but if above the shoulders it is "in the head?"

: : : : : : : : Thanks,

: : : : : : : : Eric

: : : : : : : Isn't it simply a question of available target area, rather than body geography?? The head is fairly large compared to the arm and certainly the lower leg, and "in" probably therefore means "within the boundaries of". I bet if some pitcher hurled a ball at a batter and hit his midriff, he'd be said to have been "struck IN the stomach". Similarly one is punched on the shoulder, but punched in the chest, back or face. Any other opinions?

: : : : : : If target area is the criterion, we should hear "punched on the eye."

: : : : : I've got one lonely sports reference book and it wasn't in there.

: : : :
: : : : Good point re eye.... so what *is* the criterion?

: : : I have no idea. Seems to me both "hit in the head" and "hit on the head" are standard in general contexts--that is, outside baseball. Baseball may have its own conventions about this.

: : : "He was hit in the stomach" sounds right if he doubled over when hit, and "he was hit on the stomach" sounds right if he maintained an upright posture and firm muscles. So maybe concavity is the secret. But heads are convex . . .

: : Maybe that's close. Maybe it's about penetration, or at least inward travel - and maybe "hit in the head" is the exception, being actually strictly speaking incorrect. Some credence is given to this theory, because someone is invariably "shot in the ----" or "stabbed in the ----", hence it's about penetration in those two cases. Similarly, maybe one is "punched in the stomach" because the incoming fist is liable to travel inwards to some degree. In a similar vein, maybe one is "punched in the eye" because the eye is a non-protruding body part (except in the case of the late Marty Feldman), and so the fist has to enter into the concavity of the eye socket. I'm now suspicious as to how strictly correct the no doubt widespread usage of "struck in the head" is - Isaac Newton was definitely struck *on* the head by the legendary apple, rather than *in* the head. So maybe the usage of "in the head" when talking about wayward baseball pitches is simply to overdramatise things, making the pitch similar in nature to a fired bullet. I bet it still hurts though.

: I've had similar musings ... and if you consider "perceived penetration" rather than physical penetration, it all fits together. Getting hit IN the head rattles your brain, and seems, well, IN. Your eye is so central to your perception of self, you'd be hit IN the eye. Getting hit ON the shoulder has less impact, because you feel less vulnerable. The stomach can go both ways: hit hard enough, you feel as if you were hit IN the stomach. The extremities are far from your perceptual center, so you get hit ON the hand or foot, never IN. I know -- it's a crackpot theory, but I'm stickin' with it.

Besides the subtleties of concavity/penetration and distance of the injured part from one's perceptual center, "struck in the head" seems more serious than "struck on the head" because it sounds more like medical terminology and suggests internal injury--just my impression.