February 17, 2006

keep all the balls in the air

Posted in Idioms at 11:10 am by Feng

keep all the balls in the air — to do several things well at the same time

Yesterday, before the seminar started, the host introduced the visiting professor to the audience. The professor was quite occupied in his work and life — he wrote books, taught students, had several hobbies, and acted as the head of a computer science department. “However, he manages to keep all the balls in the air,” (put the comma inside the quotes) the host said with respect.

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6 Comments »

  1. Saar Drimer said,

    it does not always imply doing thing well, just doing many things. in this case, the host did mean the prof was doing things well, but that’s not the rule.

  2. david said,

    i don’t see any problems with this text 😀

  3. Matt Dennis said,

    In the U.S. “version” of English, the closing quotation marks should follow a period or comma–“…balls in the air.”

  4. teklog said,

    Wow, I’ve never heard this expression before. Maybe it’s my age? I learned something new today, thanks!

  5. Feng said,

    >> In the U.S. “version? of English, the closing quotation marks should follow a period or comma.

    Matt, I think you are right. Not only the US version, the UK version is the same — at least as it looks from the BBC articles.

  6. The metaphor comes from juggling. The juggler’s performance is ruined if he lets one of the balls he is juggling fall to the ground. But, the more balls a juggler can keep in the air, the more amazing the performance. Hence, someone who keeps a lot of balls in the air is seen as someone who is like a good juggler, i.e. it’s a difficult performance with zero room for failure.


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