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  1. When someone asked Berra how he liked school, he said, "Closed."

  2. Take it with a grin of salt

  3. It gets late early out here

  4. I think they just got through marinating the greens

These are Yogi Berra's sayings of which I can't understand the meaning.

Would you help me understand these sayings' meaning?

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    You should only pick one or two sayings at the most, and then explain what you think they mean. Do you not have any idea for number 1 and 3, you don't have to be a native speaker to understand those. Oh, by the way, they're not really sayings, they are jokes and puns. Nope, he's not a comedian, just Googled his name, they are however, malapropisms.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 27, 2015 at 11:04
  • For 1, I guess his answer was negative, but I'm not sure how he expressed his negative answer by saying "closed". I thought it is an unusual way of using the word "closed". Sep 27, 2015 at 11:26
  • For 3, it sounds like a paradox but I don't get the implication of it. Sep 27, 2015 at 11:26
  • For 2, maybe he treated 'it' (other's words) as a food? Sep 27, 2015 at 11:27
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    Virtually all of the quotes attributed to Berra are plays on words of one sort or another. Hint: in the first one, "like" can be used to mean "prefer".
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 27, 2015 at 12:40

3 Answers 3

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Here's a quick look at the four quotations you ask about.

When someone asked Berra how he liked school, he said, "Closed."

Berra was not a scholarly guy, and he wasn't a huge fan of school. But when someone asked him how he liked school, instead of saying "Not much" or something similarly focused on what his feelings about school were, Berra interpreted the question as asking him to identify the conditions under which he liked school most. "Closed" means simply "I liked school most when it was closed." The misunderstanding of this question to comic effect is reminiscent of an anecdote in which someone asked Diogenes, the famously penniless cynic philosopher/gadfly of Athens (and other parts of Ancient Greece), what his favorite wine was. His answer: "Other people's."

Take it with a grin of salt

This is simply a malapropism in which Berra either misstated or misunderstood the idiomatic phrase "take it with a grain of salt" (meaning don't accept it at face value) as containing the word grin instead of grain. The fictional Mrs. Malaprop in Richard Sheridan's play The Rivals repeatedly commits similar errors, such as referring to a chivalrous person as "the pine-apple [instead of pinnacle] of politeness."

It gets late early out here

This a logical paradox because late and early are opposites. The idea that one happens on a schedule defined by its opposite is difficult to make sense of unless you change the terms of the statement. There are at least two ways to apply a meaningful interpretation to what Berra said. One is to imagine that he was playing a game in a city farther north than where he was used to playing, and that sundown came earlier than he expected; we could rephrase his comment more accurately in that case as, "It gets dark early up here." Another possibility is that he was visiting a city where the nightlife (bars, restaurants, clubs, etc.) shut down earlier than it did in New York; we could capture the gist of his comment in that case as "Businesses close for the night early around here."

I think they just got through marinating the greens

This is another malapropism. In all likelihood Berra was trying to come up with the word irrigating or the word manicuring. The joke is that marinating, though it falls roughly halfway between those two words, has nothing to do with golf or with golf greens.

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    You could also add that to marinade something is a cooking procedure, and there's a tomato sauce called "marinara". I was a bit stuck on that one, tell the truth.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 28, 2015 at 8:46
  • What a splendid explanation! Thank you so much! I'm so astounded by your insightfulness Sep 28, 2015 at 8:46
  • Oh, greens as in golf greens. I thought the last one was quite clear and unambiguous (though lacking context, of course), meaning, “I think they just finished marinating the vegetables”. Guess not! Sep 28, 2015 at 9:16
  • This is a fundamentally incorrect answer with the assertions ("The misunderstanding of this question", "malapropism", "Berra either misstated or misunderstood") that Berra made these statements in error. He did not. He intentionally spoke like this for comedic effect, much like Johan Cruyff. It unfortunately makes this explanation far off the mark. These quotes, and others like them from Berra are actually quite brilliant and funny ("When you get to a fork in the road... take it").
    – John
    Apr 5, 2018 at 22:49
  • For an instance of the fork remark from August 2, 1913 (12 years before Yogi Berra was born), see "Wise Directions" in the Madison [Louisiana] Journal: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." "I will, if it is a silver one." The same joke also appears in the Abbeville [Louisiana] Progress (August 2, 1913) and the Hays [Kansas] Free Press (August 23, 1913). Likewise, the famous Yogi-ism, "Nobody goes there any more. It's too crowded" appeared in The New Yorker ...
    – Sven Yargs
    Apr 6, 2018 at 6:49
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It gets late early out there

This Yogi-ism is actually a brilliant perspective on how quickly baseball games and seasons can get away from a team, but Yogi originally was referencing the long shadows that begin to stretch across an outfield well before sundown.

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The key thing to understand is that Yogi Berra was not a wise man, of the sort who is quoted because the things he said were so clever. He is quoted because he often made mistakes in speaking, and those mistakes were often humorous. For example, there is an English expression "to take with a grain of salt" that means to not take something too seriously. Berra has simply said it wrong here; there is no deeper meaning than that.

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