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Looming large? 赫然耸现

中国日报网 2018-12-07 11:55

Reader question:

Please explain “loomed large” in this passage (Dollar up vs euro on Merkel exit news, Reuters, October 28, 2018):

Merkel has loomed large on the European stage since 2005, helping guide the EU through the euro zone crisis and opening Germany's doors to migrants fleeing war in the Middle East in 2015 - a move that still divides the bloc and Germany.

My comments:

It means that Merkel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel that is, has exerted great influence on European affairs for more than a decade (since 2005).

That’s what “loomed large” means. “Loomed” would suffice actually but “loomed large” is a set phrase that’s been used for a long time.

To loom, literally, is to weave threads into cloth, into cloth of different pattern, form, shape. Hence it metaphorically stands for things that takes shape or comes into form, usually in a big way.

Weather forecasters, for example, speak of storm clouds looming over the horizon. And if the dark clouds keep expanding and coming our way, heavy rainfall accompanied by gusts of wind may be in store. Run indoors and keep all windows shut.

Metaphorically, when we talk of people or events looming large, we usually mean to convey the same idea, someone or something exerting great influence, like a large cloud casting a great shadow over the land.

Dark clouds cast dark shadows. Hence, the person or event can be menacing or threatening, also, like a looming sandstorm. In fact, this is an essential point to remember about the phrase looming large. It has connotations of something negative or even sinister or at any rate undesirable and worrisome.

In the case of Merkel, her looming large implies that, popular as she generally has been, she has her share of enemies and critics who despise her.

Or rather her policies, for the German Chancellor is a woman of decency and a good example of what a political leader should be. Most Germans will miss her once she leaves the political scene.

All right, no more comment on politics. Here are, instead, a few examples of “looming large” culled from recent media:

1. Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary, won a standing ovation at the Labour conference on Tuesday when he said the party had not ruled out the possibility of another referendum on EU membership.

His comments were the latest interpretation of a Labour “compromise” statement on Brexit, thrashed out on Sunday in a room involving almost 300 conference delegates.

Although the motion was approved by Labour delegates in a vote on Tuesday, it failed to end widespread confusion about the party’s preferred strategy on Brexit.

The document said the party’s priority was to force a general election if Prime Minister Theresa May’s attempt to negotiate an exit deal with Brussels failed, while leaving open the idea of some sort of public vote on Brexit if that approach foundered.

John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, had insisted on Monday that any new public vote would only be on the terms of the Brexit deal, and not on whether to reverse the original referendum decision to leave the EU.

Sir Keir’s comments that “nobody is ruling out Remain as an option” was not in a draft of his speech sent to journalists as he stood up to speak to conference delegates, prompting speculation that he was deliberately defying the party leadership.

In a conference debate on the Brexit motion, Sir Keir was contradicted by Steve Turner, assistant general secretary of Unite, the trade union, who said Labour was only offering a “public vote on the terms of our departure” from the EU.

Labour is deeply split over Brexit, with many younger supporters in urban areas being enthusiastic Europhiles, while blue-collar backers in the party’s traditional heartlands back Leave.


Sir Keir said Labour’s willingness to vote down any Brexit deal would be the result of “the failure of negotiating strategy” by Mrs May — and of rebellious Eurosceptic Conservative MPs.

He said the situation was looking increasingly fraught as the final discussions between the UK and Brussels loomed large, adding: “You would expect with just over three weeks to the next summit, the gap between the UK and EU to be closing . . . that can’t happen here because our prime minister is in a straitjacket,” he added.

- Labour may support second in-out EU referendum, says Starmer, FT.com, September 26, 2018.

2. On July 1, 1916, some 19,240 British troops lost their lives on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

In one of the bloodiest battles in human history, one of the most contested pieces of land on the Western Front was the Butte de Warlencourt - a hill on an otherwise flat plain, dubbed ‘a miniature Gibraltar,’ which changed hands between Germany and the allied forces three times in two years.

Now, approaching 100 years since the end of the First World War, a very different fight has flared up over the Butte’s ownership, involving a British amateur history organisation and its angry members.

The Western Front Association used its members’ donations to purchase the acre of land for a modest 5,000 French Francs (£670) in 1990, and has maintained it ever since. But last month the famous Butte was quietly sold to the group's former chairman, Bob Paterson, in a deal struck behind closed doors. The WFA's 6,500 members only found out in a newsletter earlier this week.

The move has been branded disgraceful, disappointing and arrogant, and some have cancelled their membership as a result. One trustee resigned their position after the vote was taken in their absence, and the Charity Commission has said it will investigate the sale.


In November 1916, the landscape was very different. Aged 25, and having already won a Victoria Cross, Lt Colonel Roland Bradford, the commanding officer of the 9th battalion Durham Light Infantry, was ordered to attack the German forces controlling the Butte.

“It is wonderful, when one considers the difficulties under which our men were working and the fearful fire to which they were exposed, that they held on for so long as they did. And it makes you proud to be an Englishman,” he said, after the failed mission.

“The Butte de Warlencourt had become an obsession. Everybody wanted it. It loomed large in the minds of the soldiers in the forward area and they attributed many of their misfortunes to it. The newspaper correspondents talked about ‘that miniature Gibraltar.’ So it had to be taken.”

- British charity sells Somme battlefield plot without telling members, Telegraph.co.uk, November 1, 2018.

3. Resigned to the loss of one-party control over Washington in Tuesday’s elections, President Donald Trump stared down the prospect of endless House investigations, stymied policy efforts and fresh questions about the resilience of his unorthodox political coalition. He celebrated GOP success hanging on to the Senate and distanced himself from any blame.

Trump stayed quiet for much of election night as Republicans maintained their hold on the Senate and Democrats captured control of the House — a shift all but certain to redefine his presidency. Late in the evening, he offered a brief tweet that simply read: “Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!”

Early Wednesday, Trump declared on Twitter: “Now we can all get back to work and get things done!” The president was expected to further address the results and his role in the outcome at a White House news conference later Wednesday.

Trump called House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a conversation that her office said included congratulations and a nod to her pitch for bipartisanship.

Widely viewed as a referendum on Trump’s presidency, Tuesday’s results offered a split decision that revealed deep tensions in the American electorate — distances that could easily widen during two years of divided control. Trump’s aggressive campaign blitz, which paid off in some key victories, suggests he is likely to continue leaning into the fray.


Trump spent election night watching returns with family and friends at the White House, his shadow looming large over the results.

Nearly 40 percent of voters cast their ballots to express opposition to the president, according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate, while about 25 percent said they voted to express support for Trump.

- Despite House loss, Trump still sees midterms success, AP, November 7, 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)


In your face? 咄咄逼人


Cut and dried? 已成定局


Body of work? 作品主体


Ring a bell? 耳熟


Broad brush 粗线条


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