September 09, 2008

#01-159: Reading Boomtown Chronicles 31

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: What were the steppingstones that brought you to where you are today?

Boomtown Chronicles Part XII - published Monday, September 1, 2008 (cont.)

  • The population "ballooned" to 13 million.

ballooned: grew quickly, like a balloon being blown up.

  • Some migrants used their low-paying jobs as "stepping stones" to the entrepreneurial life.

stepping stones: stone, brick, or separate pieces of concrete spaced about one step apart on a garden path. A visitor walks from one stone to the next, just as a worker goes from job to job, higher and higher; each job is a "stepping stone."

  • Some of these workers became part of the "nouveau riche."

nouveau riche: the "new (or newly) rich." These are people who made their own money (instead of inheriting it). Those who were born into the upper classes often looked down on the nouveau riche, so the label was somewhat pejorative; but in this entrepreneurial age, it has gained a new respectability.

  • "Migrant workers on meager salaries toiled in cheerless gray factories that churned out cheap toys..."

I nominate this for the most poetic sentence I've ever read in the Shenzhen Daily:

meager: inadequate; not enough

toiled: worked without rest

cheerless: gloomy; without joy

gray: a dull, boring color

churned out: produced quickly

Later we see words like "plight" and "sweatshop."

plight: unfavorable or unfortunate condition

sweatshop: a workplace offering low wages, long hours, and poor conditions

  • a "drought of romance"

drought: usually a long period without rain, such that the crops die and food becomes scarce. Here, there weren't nearly enough men available to the number of women working in the factories (when I arrived in 2004, the figure was said to be one man for every seven women in the city!) This "gender imbalance" led to a "drought" for the young women.

  • The site of a tragic fire contained "a maze of goods."

maze: a labyrinth, or confusing, twisted path. "Maze" comes from "amaze," which meant "to confuse" or "to surprise."


Read more:

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

  1. ballooned
  2. cheerless
  3. churned out
  4. drought
  5. gray
  6. maze
  7. meager
  8. nouveau riche
  9. plight
  10. stepping stones
  11. sweatshop
  12. toiled

  1. People looked down on him for being "________" instead of respecting him for being a "self-made man."
  2. Nothing steals your motivation like waking up to ________ skies.
  3. Vegetable prices have gone up since the beginning of the ________ in the countryside.
  4. Susan ________ away at her book, which paid off when it became a best seller.
  5. For some, a job in a ________ is better than no job at all--it's the only option they have.
  6. He found his way through the ________ of streets by using his car's GPS.
  7. No matter the décor, hospital waiting rooms are often ________ places.
  8. The best-selling author ________ poorly-written sequels so he could make more money.
  9. He saved a little from his ________ salary every week to send to his family.
  10. Too few people are addressing the ________ of starving children.
  11. Gas prices ________ when the supply was interrupted.
  12. Part-time jobs can often be ________ to full-time positions.

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for September 9, 2008

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. k; 2. g; 3. h; 4. c; 5. b; 6. f; 7. i; 8. a; 9. j; 10. l; 11. e; 12. d