September 18, 2008

#01-163: Reading Boomtown Chronicles 35

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 ever been in the spotlight for anything? What was it?

Boomtown Chronicles Part XIII - published Monday, September 8, 2008 (cont.)

  • In 1981, an annual income of 10,000 yuan per household sounded "astronomical."

astronomical: very high--even as high as the stars! Astronomy is the study of the stars (and other celestial bodies, such as planets and meteors). Astro- means "star" (from Greek astron or aster) and -nomy means the management of something (from nomia = law). So "economy" is "management of the house" (Greek oikos eco- = house), where the one who manages the house had to create budgets, control spending, etc.

Astronomy must be distinguished from astrology. Astronomy is a scientific study of the celestial bodies; astrology is the non-scientific study of determining one's character or fate based on the position of the stars at the time of one's birth.

  • Deng Xiaoping's encouragement was "branded" on Deng Zhibiao's mind.

branded on (or into): marked permanently. A brand, in this case, would be a metal device used to burn a mark into the skin of a cow or horse; the brand is also the mark itself.

  • The villagers considered the close-built "handshake" buildings to be "cash cows."

handshake buildings: buildings located so close to each other that (allegedly) people in one can reach out and shake the hand of the person in the next house!

cash cow: something that gives cash the way a milk cow gives milk and a beef cow gives beef. The term is used to describe something which generates a lot of money without a lot of work. Often, when I ask a student what his or her father does for a living, the student answers, "He collects rent." Apparently, such dads own quite a few cash cows!

  • Some cash cows became "eyesores."

eyesore: something that is ugly or offensive to look at. It would figuratively make the eyes sore.

  • These eyesores brought the village into the "spotlight," because some of them were illegal and unsafe.

spotlight: a light which is focused on one spot, as on a stage, when a special light is turned on one performer to single him or her out from the rest; so, close attention to someone or something. This is not always good. A politician may try to keep his or her family "out of the spotlight," and no one wants to be in the spotlight for doing something foolish or illegal.


Read more:

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

  1. astronomical
  2. branded into
  3. cash cows
  4. eyesore
  5. handshake buildings
  6. spotlight

  1. In recent weeks the price of gas has been ________. I can hardly even afford to drive to the market!
  2. Sometimes it's hard to help others secretly, without finding yourself in the ________.
  3. The city told the landlord that he had to improve the ________ or they would tear it down.
  4. In the right area, videoke machines can be real ________, staying rented out all the time.
  5. The sight of the building's collapse was ________ my memory.
  6. One nice thing about walking between ________ is that there's always shade!

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for September 18, 2008

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