September 25, 2008

#01-166: Reading Boomtown Chronicles 38

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: Do you know anyone who has ever received any kind of transplant--heart, kidney, cornea, etc.? Are you listed as an organ donor in case of an accident?

Boomtown Chronicles Part XIV - published Monday, September 25, 2008 (sidebar)

  • Xiang Chunmei was "China's first cornea donor."

cornea: the outermost layer (the "cover," so to speak) of the eye. The word means "horn" (the words are cognate), because it is a hard, clear covering, much like the material that animals' horns are made of. If this becomes damaged, it can prevent one from seeing. Because of its location, it is fairly easy to replace. In fact, this was the first organ ever successfully transplanted, by an Austrian doctor back in 1905!

  • Donating organs "is still in its infancy in China."

infancy: the state of being a newborn child. For something to be "in its infancy" means that it is a relatively recent development.

  • Organ donation came late to China because of the "Chinese tradition dictating that bodies should be kept intact after death."

dictate: to command unconditionally (think of the word "dictator"). There is no arguing with the dictates of society. But they can change, however slowly.

"Dictate" also sometimes means to say or read something aloud as another writes it down. (You may have had "dictation exercises" in an English class.)

  • "[M]ore than 5,000 people have pledged to donate their corneas..."

pledge: to "solemnly promise." The word comes from an original meaning "to guarantee."

  • "At least two eye patients have their sight restored with corneal transplants each week in Shenzhen." (Astonishing!)

transplant: to position again in a different place. Trans- means "across," "beyond," or "through" (as we saw with "transfusion" in Lesson #01-165). "Plant" has the common meaning: to place something in a new location, like "to plant a tree."

Though the word goes back to 1440, it was not used of human organs until 1951, and was not widely used until Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first-ever human heart transplant in South Africa in 1967. So this is a usage that developed and became popular during my lifetime--a new idea indeed!

  • Eye doctor Yao Xiaoming is a "devotee to the cause" of cornea transplants.

devotee: an enthusiastic supporter of something, or one who is "devoted" to it.


Read more:

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

  1. cornea
  2. devotee
  3. dictate
  4. infancy
  5. pledge
  6. transplant

  1. The rules of good manners ________ that younger people should offer their seat on the bus to elders.
  2. Every one of us should ________ to help reduce global warming.
  3. Because the school was in its ________, it was unable to offer scholarships to needy students.
  4. Contact lenses can sometimes damage the ________.
  5. It's important to water rose bushes well after you ________ them.
  6. The guru was always willing to spend time with a ________ in need.

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for September 25, 2008

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