December 18, 2008

#01-198: Reading Boomtown Chronicles 65

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 live in a homogeneous society--one where all people are pretty much alike--or a pluralistic one, with people of many different types, from many different cultures, etc.?

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

  • "Logistics" was "an alien term" in Shenzhen's early days.

alien: foreign, unknown, or perhaps a little strange. Most of you are probably familiar with the term "et cetera" (abbreviated "etc."). We use this to mean "and so on," but it literally means "and [et] the rest [cetera]" in Latin. It can be used to refer to people (Canadians, Australians, etc.) or things (planes, trains, etc.).

But have you ever heard "et al."? This is generally reserved for reference to people. When al. refers to people, it means "others" (maybe alii, aliae, or alia, depending on the Latin grammar). "Et al." might mean in another place, as well; in that case, it is derived from "et alibi." (Recognize that second word? An "alibi" is a legal defense that proves that the accused person was in another place at the time a crime was committed.)

So al, meaning "other," is the root word of "alien." Synonyms for "alien" include "foreign" or "strange" as an adjective (especially when talking about people or ideas) and, as a noun, "foreigner" or "stranger." It can also mean "outside" or "outsider," meaning "excluded from the mainstream."

As an "alien" myself, I find this a very pertinent and useful word.


  • "Shenzhen government took the lead in China in encouraging pluralistic ownership to attract foreign and private investment."

pluralistic: including different owners (in other cases, different ideas, different methods, etc.)

If you've ever studied a language, you'll know that the distinction between "singular" and "plural" (one versus many) is often an issue. (Not so much in Chinese, though!) And Americans may be familiar with the American motto "E pluribus unum," Latin for "Out of many, one." "Pluribus" is the "many" in this motto.

So, the article means that, rather than the formerly "centralized" and "state-owned" transportation system described in the article, Shenzhen was encouraging ownership by multiple entities, thus creating competition and mobilizing the industry.


Read more:

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

  1. alibi
  2. alien
  3. centralized
  4. et al.
  5. etc.
  6. plural
  7. pluralistic
  8. singular

  1. We must always be sensitive to the customs of others in our ________ society.
  2. If only one person or thing is acting, the verb should be ________.
  3. We visited several American cities, including Chicago; Boston; New York; Washington, D.C.; ________.
  4. Try not to let any ________ substances fall into your cake batter.
  5. The police had to let the suspect go after his ________ checked out: he really had been at his mother's for dinner that night.
  6. The ________ of "sheep" is "sheep."
  7. Although the United States allows a lot of freedom to the individual states, certain things, like the monetary system, are ________.
  8. Most of my cousins were there: Wayne, Terry, Dean, Stephanie, ________.

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for December 18, 2008

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. e; 2. d; 3. g; 4. h; 5. c; 6. f; 7. a; 8. b