ball-breaker

Christine-Brinn

Member
British English - UK
This is a real lesson in how hard idioms are to grasp.

For example, let us look at what cuchuflete said:

cuchuflete said:
Hi Thomas,
Your thread title is a real ball breaker.

"ball-breaker" meaning working extremely hard.

Which would - literally - leave us women who are working that hard..... where?

Would we be C*** crunchers? (Adding in that element of alliteration).

Why does English continue to use such MALE-only sexist metaphors?

Christine (a feminist and perhaps a person soon to be banned since it is all right/alright in English to talk about balls but not c***s.)
 
  • Christine-Brinn

    Member
    British English - UK
    'ball-breaker' is extremely informal as it involves sexual content - so cuchuflete was playing with Thomas.

    Was s/he hoping perhaps that he would trip himself up and use it?

    Perhaps not, but at least s/he hoped Thomas would not notice the sexual innuendo. This means s/he believed s/he was making an in-joke with other English speakers/literates on this thread.

    So - s/he may have also have given Thomas a literally correct answer, but s/he was also having a joke at his expense by using an unfamiliar sexal idiom in his/her reply - an idiom that he might not spot because of his lack of expertise in UK idioms.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Welcome to the forums Christine-Brinn.

    Please don't hijack other people's threads. You are always welcome to start a new one to discuss a topic distinct from an existing one.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    I think this is a real lesson in how someone has a preoccupation, and tries to impose it on language, which is organic, and sometimes a little slow to catch up with the latest social and political fashions.
    Christine-Brinn said:
    This is a real lesson in how hard idioms are to grasp.

    For example, let us look at what cuchuflete said:

    I made reference to an extremely long thread title, quoting a term used by the thread starter: ball breaker, meaning something requiring lots of effort, difficult, needing a strenuous effort.

    "ball-breaker" meaning working extremely hard.

    Which would - literally - leave us women who are working that hard..... where? Which would leave women needing to work no more or less hard than men in trying to interpret the lengthy thread title...unless they choose to be needlessly literal.

    Would we be C*** crunchers? (Adding in that element of alliteration). I don't know about what "we" would be...the sentence I wrote referred to a thread title, not to men or women. If you prefer to substitute c**t cruncher for ball breaker, as a way to point to difficulties, that's fine with me.
    I like descriptive neologisms. You might risk offending some feminists who don't share your sense of humor, but that shouldn't stop you. Politikal kerrectitude is silly. Say what you please!

    Why does English continue to use such MALE-only sexist metaphors? Because it's a language! Sexist? If a man refers to an exceptionally difficult job as a ball breaker, for him that is what it is. Should we say "genital grinder" in the interests of neutrality? I suppose multicultural plurilistic ideology might further require us to find an "inclusive" term that accomodates all sexual preferences, together with the needs of males, females, castrati, and the few hermaphrodites abroad in the land. We could spay, neuter, castrate language
    quite a bit, but then a feminist could never call a man a prick.:) no matter how much he might deserve to be so described.;)

    Christine (a feminist and perhaps a person soon to be banned since it is all right/alright in English to talk about balls but not c***s.)
    If you want to talk about any English word in this forum, you won't be banned for it.

    Some words are considered vulgar in every language. Our forum rules say that it is fine to talk about them, as opposed to using them gratuitously. Yes, it's unfair that some words are considered more vulgar than others. That's an interesting topic in itself, and probably goes more to anthropology and sociology than linguistics, but go for it!
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Here are a couple of genitalia grinders:

    These are quotations from two female basketball coaches of women's teams...

    "Normally we open in a zone," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "We opened in a man* -- I wanted us to come out and pressure, have good energy."

    *abbreviation for "man-to-man" or "man-on-man" defensive scheme.

    The opposing coach had this to say:

    "Tennessee was outstanding today," Auburn coach Nell Fortner said. "They shot the ball extremely well, and just absolutely just manhandled us. We didn't have an answer for it. It was a long day for us."


    Please note that the reference to 'the ball' has nothing to do with male anatomy.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    I'll contrast my understanding of the term with your inferences, which are in no way in accord with my intentions...
    Christine-Brinn said:
    'ball-breaker' is extremely informal as it involves sexual content That's utter nonsense! There is nothing whatsoever sexual about giving someone a very hard time...which is what breaking one's balls means in the variety of English I use. - so cuchuflete was playing with Thomas. Absolutely correct! I was teasing him for writing a very long thread title, that took considerable effort to comprehend. :) If you want to find sex behind every tree and under every rock, be sure that this is your own doing. There is nothing sexual in calling an overly long thread title a ball breaker.

    Was s/he hoping perhaps that he would trip himself up and use it?

    Perhaps not, but at least s/he hoped Thomas would not notice the sexual innuendo. It's very easy to overlook what isn't there. :D This means s/he believed s/he was making an in-joke with other English speakers/literates on this thread.

    So - s/he may have also have given Thomas a literally correct answer, but s/he was also having a joke at his expense by using an unfamiliar sexal idiom Please dismount from the 'sexual idiom' mule...it is not sexual. in his/her reply - an idiom that he might not spot because of his lack of expertise in UK idioms.
    Maybe our discord results from yet another BE/AE difference.
    In AE ball breaker/ballbreaker/ball-breaker or the adjectival form refers to something requiring great effort. Christine's first post carried that meaning. It takes very hard work.

    Here's what Cambridge UP says:



    a ball-breaker British & Australian, very informal!

    a woman who does not like men and is unpleasant towards them
    I don't think you're going to like your new flat mate - she's a bit of a ball-breaker.

    (from Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms

    From an American dictionary:
    a job or situation that is demanding and arduous and punishing; "Vietnam was a ball-breaker" [syn: ball-buster ]
    Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University
     

    T.D-K

    Senior Member
    Cymraeg Cymru
    "The show opens up with a huge crane with a 'ball-breaker' at the end of it, swinging slowly towards an on-stage 'building';

    A Ball Breaker is a huge sphere attached to a crane that is used to demolish buildings.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    suzi br said:
    I'd be interested to know how you think we can take the sociology our of language study!

    Easy...stick to anthropology and history, which tend to be a lot more scientific than sociology. Of course language reflects the society that creates it. Superimposing ideology on language gives no linguistic insights. It may tell us something about the society that created a term, especially from the ideological viewpoint of the one doing the analysis.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    "Ball-breaker" means what? Something about hard work, heavy burdens-- as in the expression "back-breaking?"

    I've only ever heard it to describe a certain type of woman whose game is that she's impossible to please. Not to be confused with someone, woman man or beast, who busts your chops.

    In colloquial AE as I understand it a ball-breaker is cousin to the prick-teaser, the double-bind artist and the primadonna. The irony is, I guess, that she's something of a cunt, and the expression isn't anthrocentric at all. Any more than "giant-slayer" refers exclusively to large people.
    .
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It was Thomas1 who introduced the term ball-breaker, so it is not new to him. Are we to assume he doesn't understand the anatomical reference? I don't think so.

    Is there a sexual content? Not at all, except that balls are anatomically male.
    a. A difficult, boring, or exasperating job, problem, or situation.
    b. A person who sets difficult work or problems; a hard taskmaster.
    c. A dominating woman, one who destroys the self-confidence of a man.
    OED

    On the general point that perhaps cuchuflete was deliberately misleading Thomas1 ...
    It would be entirely against the ethos of this forum to mislead anyone in any way. Quite the contrary, everyone here is very careful to point out when there is a possibility of any usage being considered offensive or ambiguous.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    cuchuflete said:
    Easy...stick to anthropology and history, which tend to be a lot more scientific than sociology. Of course language reflects the society that creates it. Superimposing ideology on language gives no linguistic insights. It may tell us something about the society that created a term, especially from the ideological viewpoint of the one doing the analysis.

    I disagree - for a start I don't know why you think I am talking about imposing an ideology on language? I guess you mean feminist reading of language?

    In fact I meant that much of the debate we have in here hinges on the suitability or otherwise of using a certain phrase or construction which is often about the social context within which one uses language.

    Social pressures also contribute to the sense of whether or not a dialect it considered prestigious or not.

    It is also a fallacy to assert that history and anthropology are more scientific and ideologically neutral than sociology. Look at David Irving for an example! And the racist nature of much early anthropology is absolutely transparant to me.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    a ball-breaker British & Australian, very informal!

    a woman who does not like men and is unpleasant towards them
    I don't think you're going to like your new flat mate - she's a bit of a ball-breaker.

    and this isn't a sexist way of using language?
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    suzi br said:
    and this isn't a sexist way of using language?
    I was a young adult in grad school when the term "sexist" first came into use, and I felt very much in the mainstream of revolutionary social change. How things revolve!

    I think the point being made is that sociological considerations are ephemeral, and they shift from trend to trend at a dizzying pace. Language changes too, and English is more mercurial than most languages and dialects-- but compared to "social progress," or the vagaries of manners and mores, it lumbers onward at a brontosaurean pace.
    .
     

    cas29

    Senior Member
    Canada/English
    As a Canadian, I'd never understood ball-breaker to be a difficult task - only a difficlut person giving someone a hard time. And yes, the context was always a woman giving a man a hard time.

    The English language is sexist - but in many ways less so than others (in Italian you can have 1000 girls and 1 boy together, and you would be obliged to use the masculine form to describe the group!!!). In English there are a lot of alternatives and ways around terms which some find sexist (ie postal carrier instead of postman, police officer instead of police man). And let's face it - some language is absolutely meant to be sexist - specifically for example, when calling a woman a ball breaker.

    Most language that is rude or heading in the direction of rude, is used so that the speaker can vent, so what would be the point of using a more polite less sexist word? By nature an offesive remark has to offend or it is ...ah.... neutered! lol.


    I've found it interesting to learn that, again in Italian, the expression "rompe palle" (ball breaker) is used to describe ANYONE, male or female, who gives the speaker a hard time. (they also use the gender-free version of "rompe scattole" (box breaker).

    as for c*** - it is interesting to note that in Ireland it can be used as a very derogatory way to refer to men! (now THAT surprised me!)
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    cas29 said:
    as for c*** - it is interesting to note that in Ireland it can be used as a very derogatory way to refer to men! (now THAT surprised me!)

    It can in Australia too.

    In the second half of the 1970s the Prime Minister of Australia was Malcolm Fraser, and his wife was Tammy.

    There were bumper stickers which said
    "Tammy has one. Malcolm is one".
     
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