The Yogi of malapropisms (or Yogi-isms)

A malaprop is defined as “the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one, often with unintentionally amusing effect, as in, for example, ‘dance a flamingo’ (instead of flamenco).” A malaprop or malapropism is the closest word(s) to describe what a rather famous baseball player would articulate to reporters on a recurring basis. The player had the iconic name of Yogi Berra.

Yogi was actually a very good and well-liked ballplayer on a very good team, the New York Yankees. As the Yankees were in the World Series with regularity, reporters had a lot of access to Yogi and what would become known as “Yogi-isms.” The funny thing about Yogi-isms is while they may sound unusual, they actually had a basis of simple truth holding them up. In other words, when you studied what he was trying to say, it actually made sense.

Here are a few Yogisms

It gets dark early out there – Yogi started as a catcher, but as he aged, he was moved to left field because he was such a good hitter and needed to be in the line-up. Late in the afternoon, the sun would cause shadows in the outfield which made it hard to see the baseball coming your way.

The future ain’t what it used to be -This may be my favorite Yogi-ism. In essence, things are happening so fast in the world, predictions of the future need updating. This is even more true today with technology advances.


It ain’t over ’til its over – This may be truest of all Yogi-isms as he has witnessed many a come from behind victory as a winner and loser. The game is not over until it is over. There is always a chance to win or lose, so finish the game.


When you come to a fork in the road, take it – This one needs to be read with a smile. You think you know what he means, but it is funny to play it against Robert Frost’s road not taken. Which way should you go? In Yogi’s mind, make a change. Or, is he saying stay the course? Or, maybe he is just saying don’t stand still, make a choice.

You can observe a lot by watching – this is one of the obvious truths. Shut up and watch what is happening. I have often felt reporters just loved to hear Yogi talk, so they would make big deals out of anything he said. Since we still have too many folks that are not present in the moment, this Yogi-ism is good advice. Pay attention, you might learn something.


Baseball is 90% mental; the over half is physical – this is one of his more famous lines. Math must have not been his strong suit. Or, more than likely, he forgot the first percentage when he closed out his point. Any endeavor has a mental aspect to it, even one where there is a ball, bat and glove involved.

Yogi-isms are priceless. They are funny, yet profound on occasion as the examples above portray. When I said he was well-liked, that is not an overstatement. He was charming and self-effacinig. He did not look like a star player, like his teammate Mickey Mantle, but he was a very good one. Kids, especially, just flocked to Yogi.

Please let me know your reactions and any other favorites.

24 thoughts on “The Yogi of malapropisms (or Yogi-isms)

  1. Note to Readers: Here is a summary of Yogi’s career from Wikipedia:

    “Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015) was an American professional baseball catcher who later took on the roles of manager and coach. He played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) (1946–1963, 1965), all but the last for the New York Yankees. He was an 18-time All-Star and won 10 World Series championships as a player—more than any other player in MLB history.[2] Berra had a career batting average of .285, while hitting 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in. He is one of only six players to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history[3] and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.”

    The story is unclear whether the cartoon character Yogi Bear was named for Berra. I have seen unequivocal “yeses” to “maybes” to “no’s” online. I also read the mannerisms for the character were patterned after Art Carney’s Ed Norton character on “The Honeymooners” where he played Jackie Gleason’s character’s best friend. My guess is there has to have been an influence on the name in tribute to the ballplayer.

  2. You gotta smile at all of Yogi’s statements, they’re funny, and though-provoking. One of my favs: “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

  3. A very entertaining and enlightening post for both those familiar and unfamiliar with Yogi Berra and Yogi-isms. My Father was a lifelong devoted fan of the New York Yankees and passed it on to his children. My favorite of the many Yogi-isms : “I didn’t really say everything I said.” As a quotatious person I have discovered that to be true of many quotations…they didn’t really say it! Thank-you!

  4. The term derives from a character called Mrs Malaprop, in the play ‘The Rivals,’ which was written by Richard Sheridan in 1775. He was British – you guys had other things on your mind in those days! They clearly predate Yogi by quite some way, though I suspect he was a much better baseball player than Mrs M 😊

      • It’s only in recent years that I’ve realised that America has misappropriated this name – as a student of English literature to degree level it has been something I’ve grown up knowing in its original context. As for Mrs Berra, the phrase ‘long suffering’ comes to mind 😂

  5. That was interesting. Maybe I had read of when I had seen it without context. But through your introduction, those quotes make a lot more sense than they may look like at first sight. Of course, the last one can be applied to almost anything that comes with strategy, competition, stressful situations, and sports is no exception. You can save a lot of energy when you have a strong mental condition.

  6. Note to Readers: Quick story about Yogi Berra. He was catching when Yankee pitcher Allie Reynolds was throwing a no-hitter. The last batter was arguably one of the greatest hitters of all time, Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox. Reynolds got Williams to hit a foul pop up behind the plate. Surprisingly, Berra dropped the ball, giving Williams another chance. Fortunately, Reynolds got him to pop up again and Berra said he squeezed the life out of that final out of the no-hitter. It should be noted Berra was catching about seven years later when Don Larsen threw the only perfect game in the World Series.

  7. Not as well known over this side of the Pond, but when read these days you can’t help but feel ‘Y’know he had a point’.
    Then there are all those ‘famous’ quotes by ‘famous and eloquent’ people, which apparently they did not actually say or say the way it has been recorded. But we like to think they are.
    One of my favourites is supposed to have been said by Churchill about General Montgomery. How true I am not sure but it does sum up the former’s command of English and wit, against the other’s knack for seeking out the credit while being able to absorb pressure.
    ‘Indefatigable in Adversity. Insufferable in Victory’

      • Using them to further your point in an argument can be a bit of a minefield, when someone more astute says:
        A. ‘Actually what they probably said was….’
        B. ‘But they also said (something which supports the counterargument)

      • Roger, well said. Thomas Paine is a good example. He was very quotable, but that was a good and bad thing. By the time he died, he had ticked off many of those he inspired with his rhetoric. Keith

    • Thanks Cindy. One thing about baseball, it provides time and fodder for storytelling, malaprop are not. How long have you been Giants’ fans? You probably were too young when Yogi’s Yankees and Giants played in the World Series. Keith

      • PS – Having had a few Yoga classes, you do observe a lot by watching, so the advice of this Yogi (Berra) is apt. You watch the instructor first, then the folks around you. One of the regulars shared early that if you angle your back foot slightly, you are less likely to fall in the Warrior pose – I still do it that way. Keith

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.