August 19, 2008

#01-150: Reading Boomtown Chronicles 22

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: Have you seen any of the Mission: Impossible movies (or the old TV show)? What was the common theme or idea that joined each one?

Boomtown Chronicles Part IX - published Monday, August 11, 2008 (cont.)

  • "Luo [Jinxing] described it as a mission impossible..."

mission impossible: an allusion to the title of a TV show (later a series of movies) called Mission: Impossible. In straightforward English, the sentence would read, "described it as an impossible mission..." It means simply that this was something very difficult or even impossible to accomplish.

  • Luo was "told to develop a 4 sqkm area of land..."

4 sqkm: four square-kilometer. Ordinarily in a prose sentence like this, the term "4 sqkm" would be written out: "four square-kilometer..." There are numerous ways to express this idea, and even to write it. "An area of land four kilometers square" or "four square kilometers of land" are options. In a table or other place calling for abbreviation, it might be written "4km" with a superscript "2" after "km" to indicate that these are square kilometers.

  • "a whopping big sum..."

whopping: very (with limited use). This is a slang word that's often used as an adjective to modify the word "big" and its synonyms. We never say "whopping small" or "whopping happy." The noun form looks like this: "I caught a fish, and it was a whopper."

  • Luo's friend made fun of him for "begging with a golden bowl"

begging with a golden bowl: failing to recognize that one already has a major source of wealth on hand. Though I'd never heard it before, the expression's meaning was instantly clear.

  • Something was "selling like hot cakes."

sell like hot cakes: be very easy to sell. No one knows why hot cakes (also called pancakes) should sell so easily, but it is a very well established cliché.

  • Hong Kong residents with fat wallets

fat wallet: a wallet containing a lot of money. Anyone with a "fat wallet" can be presumed to be rich.


Read more:

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

  1. begging with a golden bowl
  2. fat wallet
  3. mission impossible
  4. sell like hot cakes
  5. whopping

  1. Don't even think of entering that antique store unless you've got a ________.
  2. Congratulations! Our sales showed a ________ 85% increase this year!
  3. Some say that resource-rich African countries asking for subsidies from other nations are ________.
  4. This is a great product! It's going to ________!
  5. We didn't reach our sales target last quarter, and--unless things improve soon--hitting it in this one is beginning to look like ________.

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for August 19, 2008

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