not cricket


Senior Member
As far as I know "not cricket" means "unfair, unsportsmanlike". Please kindly confirm if this is the case in the following context, taken from "1919" by John Dos Passos:
Her brother George turned up at the office once day with a captain's two silver bars on his shoulders. His whipcord uniform fitted like a glove, his puttees shone and he wore spurs... He was going to Cambridge for the spring term and called everybody blighters or rotters and said the food at the restaurant where Eveline took him for lunch was simply ripping. After he'd left her, saying her ideas were not cricket, she burst out crying.
  • #3
    It should be noted, though, that none of the terms that George is using ("blighters", "rotters", "ripping", "cricket", etc.) is American slang. They are instead British slang, and for George to use them is a very distinct affectation on his part. Depending on the rest of the context, the tears may be the result either of annoyance at the phony English mannerisms, or jealousy at what is perceived as George's "sophistication".


    Senior Member
    England - English
    Also, do not learn your British slang from an American author, since most people would say it's just not cricket. Saying her ideas were not cricket sounds silly to me. I would have thought it fairly obvious whether or not she was suggesting a ball game with a bat and stumps.

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Some slang remains in use for decades, GWB, and that is the case with these terms, which are still sometimes heard. My point was that students, though they may still come across them in spoken English and in modern texts, should not adopt them. I don't think we can assume that students will always conclude that the slang of 1919 has gone out of use.
    English - England
    BE does have quite a lot of idioms derived from cricket, though we sometimes disagree where they come from - I remember a discussion on the source of 'on the back foot'.

    It's not cricket means very much the same as it's not playing the game (we could spend a lot of time discussing which game).

    To play with a straight bat means to play fair, or to avoid corruption. The headline below dates from 2006:

    Always play with a straight bat: MP Nigel Griffiths, Deputy Leader of the British House of Commons, recently finished a six-day visit to Vietnam. He spoke with Vietnam Investment Review's Bich Ngoc about Vietnam's strategy to fight corruption.(News)(Interview)

    I think there may be tens of other cricketing metaphors, and many of them - to have had a good innings (to have had a long and enjoyable life), to have been hit for six (to have been extremely surprised and upset), etc. - are in current use. "It's not cricket" gets 27K Google hits webwide. I don't think it's as unusual as Sound Shift suggests, though it's associated, for me, with a certain sort of middle-class English. I doubt if the many working people who play cricket would regard it as part of their active vocabulary, unless they were parodying the toffs.