January 06, 2009

#01-206: Reading Boomtown Chronicles 70

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: How do you signify that you have struck a deal with someone? Shaking hands is common; do you do anything else?

Boomtown Chronicles Part XXV - published Monday, December 29, 2008 (cont.)

In this lesson, we'll look at some interesting idioms and words based on the use of metaphors. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which one thing is used to represent another.

fast track: a metaphor for developing or moving ahead rapidly. A person "on the fast track" is being promoted or moving up rapidly in his company.

The image is of a racetrack with optimal conditions: a smooth, dry surface, etc., where the fastest speeds can be attained. It also sometimes refers to train tracks used by express trains only.

Note that it can also be used as a verb meaning "make something go faster" or maybe "give priority to": "We're going to fast-track Bob's project to ensure that he meets the deadline."


black market: a sort of underground economic system, trading items or in a manner that is prohibited by law. The word "black" here means "hidden, secret, in the dark" or maybe "evil, bad." So when people bought bonds from a legitimate securities company and then reselling them illegally, they were selling "on the black market." (We also discussed this in Lesson #01-147.)

fighting an uphill battle: working against some disadvantage. Imagine playing a basketball game on a hillside. Your team's basket is at the upper end, and your opponents' is at the lower. You would be fighting literally uphill, which would put you at an extreme disadvantage.

strike a deal: make an agreement. The term may have originated among Irish horse traders who, it is said, would slap each others' hands instead of shaking them to conclude a deal. You may still sometimes hear the expression "to strike hands on a deal."

lobbying: the well-known practice of attempting to influence lawmakers. They say that in less sophisticated times the people attempting to have such an influence would wait in the lobbies (entry halls) of legislative buildings to speak to lawmakers or give them documents. These people came to be called "lobbyists," and their action, "lobbying."

embark: begin an enterprise. "Bark" is an old word for a sailing ship; to "embark" is to get on the ship. It means metaphorically "setting sail."


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shenzhen

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

  1. black market
  2. embark
  3. fast track
  4. fighting an uphill battle
  5. lobbying
  6. strike a deal

  1. Anyone trying to reduce their kid's screen time is ________.
  2. Although she was recently hired, the company has decided to put her on the ________ for a management position.
  3. They've been at the negotiating table for three days and still haven't been able to ________.
  4. Fasten your seatbelt: we are about to ________ on a journey of epic proportions!
  5. The students were ________ the school administration for a longer lunch period.
  6. Be careful: lots of the "expensive" watches sold on the ________ are fake.

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for January 6, 2009

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