Slang City Mail

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July 7, 2005

Slang of the Week: can of corn (noun phrase)
In baseball, a fly ball that is very easy to catch

After several humiliating innings at the company picnic, clumsy Ralph stood in the outfield and prayed for a can of corn.

Celebrity quote:
“I thought it was just a can of corn, a popup. I started to round first base and I saw him kind of staggering a little bit, and I thought, ‘wait a minute, he wasn't wearing any sunglasses.’ That sun out there is brutal. Sure enough, it dropped in front of him.”
-Johnny Estrada of the Atlanta Braves on a play that helped his team beat the Marlins last year

This term is much older than you might think—it dates from the late nineteenth century. And while there are several theories about the origins of this term, the most charming comes from the grocery store.

Shops used to keep canned goods stacked high and sales clerks would knock the cans down with a wooden pole before catching them easily with an open hand or apron.

But that isn’t the expression’s only meaning. When Robin Williams won an Oscar for his portrayal of a psychiatrist in the movie Good Will Hunting, he told South Boston residents “You're a can of corn. You're the best.” In Southie (South Boston) that’s slang for good-natured and easygoing.

 What’s new at Slang City?
“Why didn't you give me none of that nasty little hoochie-woochie you usually throw at me?” By request, translated quotes from Good Will Hunting. (Warning: adult themes.)