have a bit on the ball

AlexanderIII

Senior Member
Russian
Dear all,
Could you please help me out with a difficulty in the novel by Dennis Lehane 'Gone, Baby, Gone'?


Cheese was smart, Chris Mullen was halfway there, and Pharaoh Gutierrez seemed to have a bit on the ball.

I guess 'to have a bit on the ball' means 'to have his own share (not very big) of common success'. Is this correct?
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    It means to have a certain level of commonsense and/or intelligence. A bit doesn't necessarily have to mean a small amount -- it can be an understated way of saying that he's pretty bright.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think we need more context, Alexander.

    Is Cheese a person, for instance?

    There are two idioms which may be relevant:

    To have a bit of a ball - to have a party, or a good time.
    To be on the ball - to understand the full implications of something.

    If this is taking place in a casino, I suppose PG may have a bet on where the ball will land.

    You can see why I think we need more context.

    ps. I've read Copyright's post and this is clearly an AE idiom. I've never come across it in BE. There are plenty of examples of it on the net in the sense that Copyright indicates. I'll leave my post standing as a historical artefact, and an indication of the status of the expression in BE.
     
    Last edited:

    AlexanderIII

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I think we need more context, Alexander.
    Is Cheese a person, for instance?
    If this is taking place in a casino, I suppose PG may have a bet on where the ball will land.
    You can see why I think we need more context.
    ps.
    I am sorry, Thomas.
    Cheese is a name of a criminal boss. It is not taking place in a casino and has nothing to do with sports. The author describes Cheese's history of ascending to power in the criminal comunity of Boston (Texas).
     
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