Back to back to back[formation] (aka, Step on a crack, break your mama's back[-formation])

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/05/08 03:31 -04:00, original URI:

It was like literally a year and a day when I posted See you soon? and it was a year when Eric Lippert (in a comment) asked:

and why is it that on Classic Rock radio stations they always say "playing classic hits, back to back!" ?  Surely the BACK of the previous song abuts the FRONT of the next song.  They'd only be back to back if one of them were being played backwards, right?

At the time I remember thinking that perhaps the second song was Stairway to Heaven and they actually were going to play it backwards to see if they could hear my sweet satan or not.

So that it would be back to back? :-)

But I decided that one did not bother me. The one that I couldn't stand was the one used in baseball all the time -- home run streaks that are back-to-back.

Or back-to-back-to-back.

Or back-to-back-to-back-to-back.

And so on.

It starts a phrase that is already a little questionable and takes it around the dance floor a few times in what only can be the most weird-ass, twister-game-from-hell, kind of back-formation that I have ever seen.

It gets used other places (I vaguely recall TNT using it for three-hour Law & Order marathon commercials, up until they moved into claiming that everything on their network proved that TNT knows DRAMA -- a factoid that I felt like throwing out the window when they actually mentioned the drama of NASCAR!).

But baseball seems to use it the most. Though at least they never even take it the last mile into backformationville and talk about a home run steak going bat-to-bat-to-bat-to-bat or something.

What's up with that?

Maybe it is just me.

Usually when a baseball game is going on and the team everyone is rooting for is in a position to talk about their team having a nice series of home runs, the best way to guarantee a legally defensible ass kicking would be to complain about this particular misuse of language.

It must be hard to be a linguist, sometimes.... :-)


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# Michael Dunn_ on 8 May 2007 5:00 AM:

Back back back back back back ... gone!

# orcmid on 9 May 2007 12:20 AM:

Ah yes, the weird expectation that idioms are supposed to make sense.  Sort of like all the different ways Unicode might or not be keyboarded and sorted and relayed off the code-pages backboard.  yes indeed.

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