What does it mean "majors in the minors"
September 15, 2014 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Is it referring to music cord or in college degree (like major in chemistry, minor in music). overall, it seems to refer the kind of mistake that take the minor thing and inappropriately treat it as a major thing. Thanks in advance for quick help. I am trying to translate it in Chinese, but didn't fully understand it yet.
posted by akomom to Society & Culture (16 answers total)
 
I am a native English speaker and have never heard that phrase as a phrase. Google confirms that it's not an idiom or anything that I just don't know. Can you give some context? Maybe the sentence you're seeing it in?
posted by brainmouse at 11:04 AM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Could it refer to leagues? Major league (professional) versus minor (amateur, or less professional)?
posted by cribcage at 11:09 AM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think we might need more context to know what it's referring to. It could even refer to major/minor league baseball.
posted by bleep at 11:10 AM on September 15, 2014


It's not a term I've heard, but without further context I would have assumed it was a baseball term, where a major-league-level player might absolutely dominate in a smaller minor-league team.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:10 AM on September 15, 2014


Could you give us an example of a sentence where you've heard that phrase used? That will help us a lot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:11 AM on September 15, 2014


I've definitely heard this phrase, though mostly in a church context where someone was told to focus on things of great importance (something you should "major" in) rather than on things of lesser importance. I don't know by whom or in what context it was coined, however.
posted by klausman at 11:14 AM on September 15, 2014


I've heard "majoring in the minors" used to describe someone focusing on the unimportant things ("minors") rather than the more important ("major") issues. This article uses it the same way. I don't believe it has anything to do with either music or college degrees.
posted by belladonna at 11:15 AM on September 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


the latter. I've heard it often enough, and the context is usually along the lines of focusing on the wrong thing, making a mountain out of a molehill, etc. Can be construed as stupid nit-picking, going down a rabbit hole, or any other deviation/distraction from the main point/purpose.
posted by k5.user at 11:15 AM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


thanks for the help.
Here is the original sentence: "This type of question 'majors in the minors'. It dissects a word, phrase, or name in a verse without consideration of the passage's larger context or governing theme."
I can translate without figuring out what field 'major' and 'minor' come from, I know the meaning of this phrase.
posted by akomom at 11:37 AM on September 15, 2014


The most coherent use of it I could find suggests that it's referencing sports teams, as in taking your major league players having them play in the minor league. I also found several Christian sites [warning: Westboro] using it, which makes me wonder if it's kind of a brain bug in certain circles and/or regions that hasn't entirely found its way out to the broader population of English speakers. OED for instance has nothing to say on the topic, despite being relatively good at other idioms.
posted by teremala at 12:42 PM on September 15, 2014


"Majors," used as a verb in this context, refers (metaphorically) to the college degree. However, "minors" does not, and is meant literally as "things that are unimportant." So the expression, in the sentence you gave, means that this type of question "majors," i.e., focuses heavily (as a college student would on their major subject), on things that are unimportant and minor. I'm not aware of any other use of "major" as an English verb except referring to the college degree.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:49 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


@teremala, I learned an unexpected new saying: brain bug. Sounds like certain brains need to go through the debug process. I do agree that people's brians need to be cleaned and sorted like a house once in a while...
posted by akomom at 12:56 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here is the original sentence: "This type of question 'majors in the minors'. It dissects a word, phrase, or name in a verse without consideration of the passage's larger context or governing theme."

Thank you.

In context, it sounds like it's similar to the expression "can't see the forest for the trees" - meaning, that it's getting caught up in trying to focus on the smaller individual details of something, as if the details were independent things, and it's forgetting to consider the details as all parts of a whole thing.

If there's any particular Chinese expression that is used in a similar situation, I'd use that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:18 PM on September 15, 2014


It is totally a real expression that turns up more than 4000 results on Google Books if you use all inflections of the verb. Doing those sorts of searches on Google Books is a great way to find a hard-to-translate expressions in context, and then derive meaning from their uses.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:46 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


thanks @Mo Nickels. I discovered the value of doing Google Books search!
posted by akomom at 3:50 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Interestingly 6 of the 10 results on the first page of Mo Nickels search are for Christian books so it may well be more popular in Christian circles. Why, I don't know.
posted by interplanetjanet at 1:57 PM on September 16, 2014


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