March 04, 2008

#01-080: Boxing Idioms - Part II: K.O.'d

scene in a boxing ring; one boxer is face down on the mat, another standing with his back toward us, and the referee running toward the downed man

Note: You win some, you lose some, right? The boxing idioms used here discuss winning, losing, or just holding on! The previous lesson, #01-079, and the next, #01-081, will teach you even more!

Get Ready: How does it feel to win at a sport? How does it feel to lose?

Let's continue with more boxing idioms. Read the dialogue, taking note of the underlined words. Then do the Practice below, check your answers in the first Comment, and read the Explanations.

This time, Mel and Bob are talking about the possibility of success or failure--"winning" or "losing."

Mel: Wow! I didn't think ABC Corp. was going to be able to go the distance.

Bob: Yes, they surprised us! I expected them to throw in the towel a long time ago.

Mel: Well, we had them on the ropes for a while, but they were never even down for the count.

Bob: With that surge in sales Christmas Day, they were kind of "saved by the bell."

Mel: That just proves that, even though they looked down and out in November, it's not a knockout until they're out for the count.

A few more miscellaneous boxing expressions in Lesson #01-081.


Read more:

Practice: Match the idiom to its meaning. After you check your answers in the first comment, read on for Explanations about each one.

  1. down and out
  2. down for the count
  3. go the distance
  4. knockout
  5. on the ropes
  6. out for the count
  7. saved by the bell
  8. throw in the towel

  1. fallen and unconscious, or having almost certainly lost
  2. fallen while the referee counts to ten, again an almost certain loss
  3. struggling; in distress
  4. give up; surrender
  5. complete the task
  6. successful because something comes to an end just as one was about to fail
  7. sudden and complete victory
  8. similar to, but worse than, "down for the count"

Answers are in the first comment below.

Explanation of the Answers: After you check your answers in the first comment below, read on for more information on these idioms.

  • down and out: when a boxer is hit hard enough he falls down, and is knocked out (unconscious). If he's down for a count of ten, he loses the match. So to be down is bad, but to be "out" is worse, because it almost guarantees one will stay down too long. To be "down and out" is terrible indeed. We use it to describe people who have no money and no hope: "Last year he was a CEO; since his bankruptcy he's been down and out."
  • down for the count: similar to "down and out." It means someone is down and not likely to get up. "Bleecorp is still in business, but not for long: they're down for the count."
  • go the distance: A fight is usually intended to go ten rounds of a predetermined length. Often, though, a fight ends earlier, either due to a knockout (see next) or because someone throws in the towel. When a fight goes all ten rounds we say the boxer has "gone the distance." Even if he loses, it's more honorable. "Cal's marketing idea is a good one, but can it go the distance?"
  • knockout (also K.O. or kayo): When a boxer knocks out his opponent, he wins instantly. So "knocking out" the competition means beating them. We usually use this as a noun ("The new design is a real knockout") but sometimes as a verb, especially when abbreviated: "We'll kayo them with our presentation."
  • on the ropes: This indicates distress. When a boxer can't stand on his own anymore, instead of falling down he may support himself on the ropes that surround the boxing ring. So to be "on the ropes" is to be near failure: "We've got our competitors on the ropes; one more quarter like the last one and they'll be down for the count."
  • out for the count: similar to, but worse than, "down for the count": not down and conscious, but down and unconscious while the referee counts to ten.
  • saved by the bell: Each round begins and ends with the ringing of a bell. Sometimes a boxer is in distress, and the round ends in time for him to go to his corner and refresh himself. Then we say he was "saved by the bell." Sometimes something happens suddenly and saves us from disaster: "There's no way I was going to finish that report on time, but then my boss went home sick. Saved by the bell!"
  • throw in the towel: give up, surrender. The boxer's coach and attendants wait in one corner of the ring; if they can see he's in trouble, they may throw his towel into the ring as a signal to stop the fight. "This project has been bleeding money for over a year; let's throw in the towel and shut it down."

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for March 4, 2008

This lesson received 581 visits on my old site between February, 2012, and July, 2021.

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. a; 2. b; 3. e; 4. g; 5. c; 6. h; 7. f; 8. d