Archive for November 5th, 2010

November 5, 2010

In the same league – or not

Surfing in a different league. pic: © Marc Prefontaine |

Another sports expression that can be used in a literal and a figurative sense: being/playing in the same league as someone.

In the literal sense it is pretty obvious: there are different leagues for teams playing at different levels.  In German soccer there is the Bundesliga for the best teams, and the 2. Bundesliga for the ones just below that level, etc. all the way down to the local level.  If teams which are in different leagues play each other, often the outcome is predictable, the team in the higher league wins and the losers will say “our soccer team is not in the same league as the opposition team.”

Figuratively it means having qualities or achievements similar to someone or something else, being on a similar level or of similar quality.  However, the expression is most frequently used in the negative form “not in the same league with somebody/something” meaning that the two things are very different with one being substantially better than the other.


“Wow, you got the latest iPhone.  My old mobile phone is not even in the same league.”


“Do you think I should take surf classes with James or Paul?”

“Paul, definitely.  James is a pretty good surfer – but he is not even in the same league as Paul.”

November 5, 2010

Going to hell in a handbasket

Going to hell and fast, pic:

My husband and I were talking about the state of the economy this morning over breakfast when this idiom came to mind.  Going to hell in a handbasket means deteriorate – fast and without great effort – or being on a fast course for disaster.

It is one of those expressions one doesn’t use all that often but there are occasions where it fits perfectly – like the discussion about the state of the economy – and using it then will show very good command of the English language.

I always thought of it as a cute idiom picturing people in little woven handbaskets going to a warm place until I did some research for this blog on why people are sent to hell in a handbasket – of all things.  The explanation I found was less cute, however.  The theory is that the expression derives from the use of handbaskets to catch people’s head after guillotining them.

Though people can certainly go to hell in a handbasket in my experience the expression is used more often when one refers to big concepts, like the economy, a certain country, idea, philosophy as the examples here will show.


Here is a fairly recent headline using that expression:  “The World’s Going To Hell In A Handbasket — Here’s What We Need To Do”

Here is another: “The middle class is going to hell in a handbasket”