August 12, 2008

#01-147: Reading Boomtown Chronicles 19

wide view of an urban area with bushes in the foreground, over which is written "READING BOOMTOWN CHRONICLES"
Shenzhen, the Boomtown

Note: Between Lesson #01-128 and #01-207, I wrote 72 lessons explaining expressions in articles published in the Shenzhen Daily. Read more about "Reading Boomtown Chronicles."

Get Ready: If you were selling a car, how could you sweeten the deal for the buyer?

Boomtown Chronicles Part VIII - published Monday, August 4, 2008 (cont.)

  • The Bao'an County United Investment Co. "sweetened the share offer" they were issuing.

sweeten a deal: make an agreement more advantageous for someone (in this case, the stock buyers) by adding some value, or lowering a price. Like sweetened coffee or tea, this makes the deal more attractive.

  • "The company staff were all out on foot..."

A grammar point: The use of "were" here is a good example of a difference between British and American English. In America, we use a singular verb with what are called "collective nouns"--groups of people or things designated by a singular noun, such as company (comprised of many people), family, etc. So in America we would say, "The staff was..." Speakers of British English might say, "The family take their holiday every August," where Americans would say, "The family takes..." To be honest, since living in Asia, I sometimes use one form, and sometimes the other!

  • Economist Milton Friedman, who visited Shenzhen, warned that the stock market could be a "Pandora's box."

opening Pandora's box: an action that will create a lot of trouble. This is a reference to Greek mythology, where the god Zeus gave Pandora (the first woman) a box, and told her not to open it. She couldn't resist, and out flew all the troubles of the world (as well as hope).

  • a "black market" in stock trading

black market: illegal dealings in goods and services. This phrase originated around the middle of the twentieth century, and can also be called "under the counter" sales.

  • In mid-1990, the market experienced "a spectacular bull run."

bull market: a market environment characterized by investor optimism and growth; a "bear market" is pessimistic. No one is quite sure how these terms originated.


Read more:

Practice: Choose the correct term to fill in the blank in the sentence below:

  1. black market
  2. bull market
  3. opening Pandora's box
  4. sweeten a deal

  1. If we can't find it in the shops, we might have to go to the ________ for it.
  2. If we give Smithers the day off, we'll be ________; requests from other employees will come flooding in.
  3. This is a great time to buy some shares of stock; it's a ________.
  4. Can I throw in a new set of tires with the car to ________?

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for August 12, 2008

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