December 16, 2008

#01-197: Reading Boomtown Chronicles 64

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: Would you rather be the head of a small company, with its fewer headaches but smaller potential, or a conglomerate, with more to worry about but a much larger income? What helps you decide?

Boomtown Chronicles Part XXIII - published Tuesday, December 9, 2008 (cont.)

  • An "obscure river port on the Shenzhen River" had been Shenzhen's only "maritime activity" before 1979.

obscure: unknown, compared to Shenzhen's fame today. But the word has several meanings. It can mean "hidden" or "unknown" (an obscure law); or something that, while known, is unclear (an obscure sentence). The obscurity can also be physical: an "obscure room"--in fact, what we call a "camera" today was originally room-sized, and was called a camera obscura--Latin for a "dark room."

maritime: of the sea. The Latin word mare means "sea"; the English word "marine" is also derived from this root. More specifically, "maritime" refers to shipping and navigational activities on the sea. So we can talk of "maritime laws" as the laws governing international shipping, or "maritime schools" as places that teach navigation, etc.

  • Shenzhen's "container throughput"

throughput: the amount of material put through a system, whether goods being shipped (as here), or data being processed by a computer. This word is less than 100 years old, and is modeled on the word "output," the amount of something that is put out by a system, a worker, etc.

  • Hutchison Whampoa of Hong Kong is a "conglomerate."

conglomerate: a large company made up of a number of subsidiaries and divisions. The base word is the Latin glomus, a ball. Its earliest meaning was "to roll something together," as a ball of yarn. Its use to describe companies first occurs in 1967, so it's another new word.

  • "[Eternal Asia Supply Chain Management Ltd.] was also the first Chinese logistic firm to go public."

to go public: to be listed publicly on a stock exchange, thus selling stock to the public. There is another meaning, "to reveal something that has been hidden," but that does not apply here: "After months of secret negotiation, the CEO went public with his company's merger with another."


Read more:

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

  1. conglomerate
  2. maritime
  3. obscure
  4. throughput
  5. to go public

  1. She was a sailor like her father, and his father before him; in fact, she was part of a proud ________ history.
  2. After numerous smart decisions, Jane found herself head of a ________.
  3. It's a proud day for any company when at last it's ready ________.
  4. She rose up from ________ origins to become one of the best-known business leaders in the world.
  5. The port was able to increase its ________ considerably after upgrading its equipment.

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for December 16, 2008

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