December 02, 2008

#01-191: Reading Boomtown Chronicles 61

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 #01-208, I wrote 72 lessons explaining expressions in articles published in the Shenzhen Daily. Read more about "Reading Boomtown Chronicles."

Get Ready: Talk about the last time you were astounded. What made you feel that way?

Boomtown Chronicles Part XXII - published Monday, November 24, 2008 (cont.)

  • "...Shenzhen's astounding rise..."

astounding: very surprising. In both meaning and origin it is close to "stunning" and "astonishing" (they all contain the st-n syllable).

Now, here's the fun part: these all derive from the Latin extonare, which is ex- (out) plus tonare (thunder). So to be stunned, astonished, or astounded is to feel like someone who has experienced thunder--as in the English word "thunderstruck"! Imagine how that would feel, and you get a sense of the true impact of this word.

  • "Shenzhen's high-tech industries grew by a staggering average of 45 percent annually."

stagger: walk unsteadily. Imagine how a person would walk who had just been "thunderstruck." He would stagger, right? So something that is "staggering" affects one the same way as thunder does.

  • "Hi-tech firms mushroomed."

mushroom: experience a sudden and extremely rapid growth. Look at a mushroom from the bottom up. It is slim, then suddenly expands straight out, horizontally. If that were a graph it appear to be a sudden burst of growth, so the noun becomes a verb, "to mushroom."

  • "Star companies...all maintained their momentum in growth."

momentum: movement, especially a continuation of previous movement. The word does not derive from "moment," as it might appear, but from a similar Latin word. ("Moment" also derives from this word. The sense is difficult to explain, but perhaps comes from "the smallest unit of time in which something can move." But that is disputed.) So if companies "maintained their momentum in growth," it simply means they never stopped growing.

  • "In the third quarter of 2008, Tencent raked in just over 2 billion yuan in revenue."

rake: use a special tool for moving large amounts of plant material, like leaves or grass. So imagine someone using that tool for gathering up money. You can't "rake in" a little money; if you're "raking it in," that means there's a lot!


Read more:

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

  1. astounding
  2. momentum
  3. mushroom
  4. rake in
  5. stagger

  1. The guard rail wasn't enough to stop the car's ________ and it sailed out over the edge of the cliff.
  2. The price of the house was enough to ________ the wealthiest of buyers.
  3. Children can make an ________ amount of noise, can't they?
  4. We have a great business idea that's going to ________ the profits.
  5. The addition of a few features to our product caused our sales to ________.

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for December 2, 2008

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