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Body of work? 作品主体

中国日报网 2018-11-23 11:48


Reader question:

Please explain “body of work” in this description of Elton John: “His body of work includes more than 30 solo albums, soundtracks to films like Billy Elliot and scores for Broadway and West End productions like The Lion King.”

My comments:

His whole collection of works, that is, including everything and not missing any, including all albums, sounds tracks to films and scores for theatre.

Sir Elton John, the British singer and composer has sold more than 300 million albums over a half century. Obviously, he’s done a lot of good work – or good works of art.

And when all these pieces are considered as a whole, it’s called a body of work. Oeuvre, in other words.

The question is, for the Chinese or the non-native speaker in general, why “body” equates to the concept of “whole”?

This has to do with the fact that the meaning of one’s body represents one’s whole and full physical being, including all parts – head, arms, and legs.

It is from this basic sense of fullness that the word “body” can be used to represent other things when they’re considered as a whole. Lake Baikal, for example, is the largest freshwater body of water in the world.

The student union, for another example, is also known as the student body, meaning it represents the interests of all students, or so it should.

Also, if a group of people do something together, they do it “in a body”, meaning as a group. This example, from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:

‘Set your mind at rest,’ says he, ‘I will stay with you till the banks open and cash the check myself.’ So we all set off, the doctor, and the child’s father, and our friend and myself, and passed the rest of the night in my chambers; and next day, when we had breakfasted, went in a body to the bank.

Anyways, “body of work” represents all of one’s good work, or works, as it were. Needless to say, one must have produced a lot, I mean A LOT, to deserve the phrase.
Here are recent media examples of people with their necessarily large “body of work”:

1. When medical researchers commit academic fraud, patients pay the price. A “star surgeon” at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden performed experimental implantations of synthetic tracheas (windpipes) on sick patients, based on his fraudulent research. Three patients died. Harvard Medical School recently called for the retraction of 31 papers by a former faculty member working with cardiac stem cells, because those papers “included falsified and/or fabricated data.” At least one patient died due to an invasive heart biopsy during a clinical trial based in part on that fraudulent work.

The problem becomes worse when unethical researchers use the power of government to impose their views on millions of others. This appears to be the case with Dr. Brian Wansink, a researcher at Cornell University specializing in nutrition and eating behavior.

Wansink is famous for research which purportedly showed that people’s food intake can be influenced by portion sizes, that kids can be “nudged” into choosing healthier snacks by giving them snacks with clever names or labels with cartoon characters, and shoppers can be subtly influenced by store layout and lighting to select some foods over others.

Wansink’s work was regularly published by respected medical journals as well as reported in popular news outlets such as the New York Times and the Today show. In November 2007, Wansink was named executive director of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. The USDA 2010 dietary guidelines were based in part on his work.


After the dust settled, a total of 13 of Wansink’s papers were retracted and Wansink was forced to resign his position at Cornell:

To date, 13 of his papers have been retracted. And that’s stunning given that Wansink was so highly cited and his body of work was so influential. Wansink also collected government grants, helped shape the marketing practices at food companies, and worked with the White House to influence food policy in this country.

(Note: Wansink denies committing intentional fraud, but does acknowledge making “mistakes”.)

- When Government-Backed ‘Nudgers’ Go Bad, Forbes.com, October 29, 2018.

2. Stephen Hawking, world-famous physicist, writer, and thinker, passed away back in March (on Pi day, no less), but his body of work will live on for a long, long time. As far as scientists go, he was one of the most well-known, so it’s probably no surprise that some of his personal effects have found their way to the auction block.

In a Christie’s auction that opened today, a number of the late scientist’s possessions are available to the highest bidder. There are a number of interesting items, including Hawking’s personal script for the episode of The Simpsons in which he was featured, as well as some awards he won and a bomber jacket that he owned. There’s also a wheelchair.

Hawking’s contributions to science can’t be overstated, but it’s also difficult to separate his legacy from the disease that kept him confined to a wheelchair for much of his life. The slowly-progressing illness made it impossible for him to walk, and by the 1970s, he relied on his wheelchair to get around.

The wheelchair currently up for auction at Christie’s isn’t his first, but it is what the auction house describes as the “earliest surviving example of a wheelchair used by Stephen Hawking.” It was used between 1988 and the mid-1990s, and it’s equipped with an electric motor and hand controller. There are plenty of images of Hawking in this very wheelchair, so there seems to be significant collector value surrounding the item, even if it is a bit… odd.

Now, I’m not saying that Hawking’s wheelchair is or isn’t historically relevant in some way, but the fact that the chair has already topped a bid of $25,000 with a full week of bidding yet to go is pretty surprising. It was originally expected to fetch a top price of under $19,000.

It may be strange that people are paying the price of a new car for a wheelchair a famous scientist once used, but the upside to all of this is that the proceeds from this and other Hawking-related auction items will go to the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neuron Disease Association, both of which are causes that Hawking cared deeply about.

- You can now bid on Stephen Hawking’s old wheelchair, if that’s your thing, by Mike Wehner, BGR.com, October 31, 2018.

3. LeBron James stopped worrying about his place in history long ago. His legacy has been secure for years. The argument about where he ranks, whether or not he’s the best player to ever step on a basketball court, will continue forever and there will never be a definitive answer.

That is, unless he keeps doing things like this.

In his 16th season, James can still make the game look absurdly easy. The latest entry on the long list of his unforgettable nights came Sunday, when James scored 51 points and led the Los Angeles Lakers to a 113-97 win over the Miami Heat. He’s only the second player to score at least 50 in a game this deep into an NBA career; the other is Kobe Bryant, in his final game, and that was aided by 50 shot attempts.

“I’ve always been a guy to let the game talk for itself, speak for itself,” James said. “My body of work speaks for itself, still to this day, 16 years in.”

He paused for a second, breaking into a big smile.

“If there’s ever a discussion,” James said, “games like this will make sure you figure it out.”

- Even in Year 16, LeBron James refusing to slow down, AP, November 19, 2018.


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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