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解读符文 Reading the runes?

中国日报网 2018-07-20 12:53

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, particularly “reading the runes”: Reading the runes of early election returns is complex but I will try to unravel what these results indicate.


My comments:

Early election results are in. So-and-so has got more votes than all other candidates. But these are early days yet. People in a lot of areas have yet to cast their votes. So therefore, it’s hard to predict who will eventually win out.

However, if you read the figures closely, you may be able to see something, certain trends, and certain indications of what’s going to happen. For example, every time a member of so-and-so’s party leads early election returns at this stage in the past, they went on to win the election. So, maybe, just maybe, this so-and-so is going to win the election this time.

This is, more or less, why the speaker (I) likens analyzing early election figures reading the runes, like, reading a lot of complicated tell-tale signs in order to get at their hidden meanings.

In other words, a lot of guesswork.

The runes, you see, were the 24 alphabets of an ancient language among peoples of northern Europe, including northern Germany and Scandinavian countries today. Each rune, or letter, is a symbol of something, fertility, energy, good news, wisdom, misfortune, etc. The ancients used to carve the runic letters into rocks or pieces of wood and used them for fortune telling. The runes were thrown like dices.

Metaphorically speaking, reading the runes is like reading a person’s palm to tell his or her fortune, or, to use a similar idiom, reading tea leaves (seeking answers from signs hidden through the leaves and therefore hidden from the ordinary eye).

In our example, it’s the speaker analyzing early election results and thereby predicting its future conclusion.

Here are more media examples of reading the runes of this event and that:


1. THE CURRENT CINEMA review of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. . . This movie is not just the best of its kind; it seems on the verge of creating a new kind, surpassing and deflating the old Bruce Lee jamborees with the same dashing intelligence that allowed Michael Curtiz’s “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” starring Errol Flynn, to outstrip the more basic bravado of Douglas Fairbanks. . . Curtiz, the director of “Casablanca” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” was born Mihaly Kertesz, in Budapest, and Ang Lee can be seen as a Curtiz for our times: the uncondescending outsider, reading the runes of the New World. Hollywood needs such men—civilized craftsmen with honor and humor—more than it needs the maverick or the self-igniting genius, and just now the need is acute. China and the Pacific Rim are delivering the liveliest and least cynical filmmaking in the world, and also the most uncowed. . . To be fair, I should add that “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is not strictly an American movie; it’s in Chinese, with subtitles. I should also add, however, that I didn’t even notice, and that I don’t care.

- Come Fly With Me, by Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, December 11, 2000.


2. In many ways the clean-living, uxorious Jack Ryan, the CIA operative who ends up as President of the United States in a series of novels by the late Tom Clancy, is about as far removed from James Bond as the hero of a thriller can be. But there is a striking parallel between the careers of Clancy and Ian Fleming.

Just as the modestly selling Fleming was pushed into literary superstardom after receiving an endorsement from President John F Kennedy, so, two decades later, Clancy’s career was boosted by the enthusiasm of the White House incumbent. Ronald Reagan declared that Clancy’s debut novel The Hunt for Red October (1984) was “the perfect yarn” and “non-put-downable”. Clancy’s sales went into the stratosphere and stayed there: his 1989 book Clear and Present Danger became America’s best-selling novel of the 1980s.

It seems appropriate that Reagan had such a hand in Clancy’s success. To start with, the film star president helped to launch the career of a fictional president who seems to spend every day as though he lives in an action movie. But also Reagan would have approved of the Clancy worldview, in which Ryan, representing a benign America, is the guy to sort out the rest of the world’s problems, whether it’s preventing assassinations (of John Paul II in Red Rabbit or the Prince and Princess of Wales in Patriot Games) or trying to prevent a Chinese invasion of Taiwan (in last year’s Threat Vector). One cannot imagine Jack Ryan spending long on the negotiation part if he were dealing with Iran or Syria.

Like many writers of politico-military thrillers, Clancy has scored a number of prognosticatory successes by reading the runes of geopolitics. Thus he has Arab terrorists attacking the United States in his 1991 novel The Sum of All Fears (the baddies were changed to neo-Nazis in the 2002 film version to avoid troublesome political waters), and he was a constantly talking head on television screens in the days after 9/11, having predicted a similar disaster in his 1994 novel Debt of Honour, in which several senior politicians are killed when a terrorist crashes a jetliner into the US Capitol (albeit a Japanese terrorist).

Part of what gives Clancy’s novels their sense of authenticity is not just his ability to keep his ear to the ground in terms of who hates America and why, but also his scientific nous – he understood military hardware, what it is capable of and who might use it in what way. It is a different sort of authenticity from, say, le Carré – less to do with the author’s conjuring up a convincing secret service atmosphere than with his ability to impress the reader with the depth and accuracy of his research – but it has certainly got tens of millions of readers across the world hooked, even those who might be rather less beguiled by the notion of America as world policeman than the author was.

- Tom Clancy: the writer who predicted 9/11, The Telegraph, October 2, 2013.


3. THE local elections are the Europa League of British politics.

No matter how much agony and ecstasy gets doled out on those Thursday nights, everybody knows that the really big action will be happening elsewhere.

Nobody ever got to 10 Downing Street because they did well in the local elections. But 11 months on from the General Election, there is no denying that Thursday’s poll was a genuine test of public opinion.

And now we know that Jeremy Corbyn will never be Prime Minister of this country. Facing the open goal of this divided, enfeebled and frequently laughably incompetent Tory Government, Jezza blasted the ball over the bar and into Row Z.

Hilary Benn, Labour MP for Leeds Central and second-generation Labour royalty, said his party had “a mixed night”. Which is Westminster flannel for “bloody disaster”.

Reading the runes of Thursday night and Friday morning, Corbyn is revealed as a bit of an Arsene Wenger figure. The glory nights are now firmly in the past.

- The results of the local elections tell us that Jeremy Corbyn will never be Prime Minister, TheSun.co.uk, May 6, 2018.

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About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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