Touch base
ksomol
When someone says "I just wanted to touch base and see how things were going", -- where exactly did the phrase "touch base" stem from? Any thoughts on this are greatly appreciated!
Thanks
Kristin
Lewis Joplin II
Baseball?
AdSumADS
That's the intuition, but I don't think the logic bares-out, though I admint that I haven't found any source material yet. To "touch base" is to make brief contact and get and exchange news, updates, or relevant but cursory information. I've a sense that it has its origin in expiditions or the military. Were I the author of such semantics, I would have made it come from one becoming grounded, but this is not, in fact, any more plausible. There is no communication in the literal act of touching bases in baseball. In campaigns, however, a satellite might use a brief stop by headquarters to stay informed. This is conjecture, however.
Frank Pierce
I'm still drawn to the baseball reference. An absolute requirement of a base runner is to touch base, or to touch all bases. Thus his run is absolutely legal and by the book.He's done what he should do.

If I touch base with a colleague, quick and casual though this contact may be, I've done precisely that, taken every step necessary to keep everything in order. I'm above reproach in this sense.

AdSumADS
Without specific reference material, we're just discussing our own insights into the semantics, but in that vein, I don't find the normative aspect compelling. It would first require taking the activity in baseball as a mere formality/technicality. Actually, I can rationalize this in the case of a home-run hit, but more difficult is taking the origination of the cliché as referring to something obligatory. While I'll also concede that it's commonly an aspect of the practice, it's not a necessary nor sufficient condition and I'm skeptical of the phrase starting there and then being generalized.
AdSumADS
I was discussing this and heard another baseball rationalization. Touching base, in the vernacular, provides security as does returning to the base would for a runner who has taken a lead and is then threatened by the pitcher.

I would still hold that using an implied layer of meaning relying on either safety or a normative flavor would be stretching-it, and so cannot reconcile the phrase with a baseball origin. Military, or perhaps another kind of campaign such as expiditions like mountain-climbing, would seem the most plausible source.

Lewis Joplin II
TOUCH (ALL) BASE(s), TO - "To make contact; to cover all the possibilities. Both versions of this term come from baseball, where touching a base is, of course, essential if a runner wants to be ruled as reaching it safely, and touching all bases means one has succeeded in scoring a run. Both terms began to be used figuratively after 1950. Clay Ford combined both senses in one in a book review, 'He seems to have touched base with every active group.' (Saturday Review, July 22, 1974)." From "Southpaws & Sunday Punches and other Sporting Expressions" by Christine Ammer (Penguin Books, New York, 1993).

Frank Pierce
AdSumADS, you are right in that this is a matter of perception. But Lewis brings up an interesting point, the two phrases - touch base - and touch all bases, both come from baseball. And in this analogy, both are used interchangeably in vernacular speech in the sense we are discussing.

I've written in a travel report that I had "touched all bases" with a given project, meaning that I'd visited or called on all principle "players" in the project office while making a quick preemptory run through the place after my principle meeting was over - meaning of course, that I'd shaken hands with everybody, and done everything legal that I should. And my management had nothing to worry about. All protocols and proprieties had been met.

But of course, this is my own idea of drawing an analogy to get across my point. It's what *I* meant to imply. There's no right or wrong answer.

ksomol
Thank you all so much. I had no idea this would receive so many responses. I appreciate the information!

Regards,
Kristin

AdSumADS
I'll admit that I hadn't considered the variations of "to have all bases covered" and will accept Ms. Ammer's authority.
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