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Fall flat on his face? 一败涂地

中国日报网 2018-12-18 12:22

Reader question:

Please explain “fall flat on his face” in this sentence: He has a lot of critics that would love to see him fall flat on his face.

My comments:

His critics are people who don’t like him. They want to see him fail. They want to see him fail big time. They want to see him fail in a spectacular fashion and preferably in a very embarrassing and humiliating way.

That’s what “flat” suggests.

You see, “fall on one’s face” suffices. “To fall FLAT on one’s face” only adds to the drama.

To fall on one’s face, of course, is to literally slip or trip up and land on one’s face, i.e. face first.

Figuratively speaking, therefore, if someone is described as falling on his face or flat on his face doing something, then they fail – completely and miserably. They fail to deliver. They fail to get the job done. They fail to accomplish the feat, whatever that feat is, and kind of embarrass themselves in the process.

Interestingly, this phrase is as old as the Bible, at least as old as the King James Version. Here’s one example (Genesis 17:3):

1) And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

2) And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.

3) And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,

4) As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

5) Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.

Abram fell on his face because he was taken aback, utterly overwhelmed by God’s message.

One more example, from KingsEnglish.info (Fell flat on his face, by Glen, March 22, 2011):

We use the phrase to indicate embarrassment. But in the bible, falling on one’s face is always literal. And there are very different ways of doing it, as we’ll see.

To fall flat on one’s face happens just the once in the King James translation – Numbers 22:31. But that’s the phrase that has really stuck with us – perhaps because of its alliteration.

Balaam is the one to have fallen flat on his face. And in his case, embarrassment is entirely justified.

As we saw yesterday, he has just been rebuked by his own donkey. Then…

the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.” (Num 22:31)

Anyways, that’s that. Here are recent media examples of people falling flat on their face, all in the figurative sense:

1. “I loved food ... the way it tasted ... the way it smelled.”

Jared S. Fogle simply loved to eat. His father was a doctor and Jared knew how to eat properly. But he didn’t.

“I ate too much fast food ... too much junk food,” said Fogle, speaking Tuesday during the September membership meeting of the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce.

At normal weight in the third grade, Fogle ballooned to 425 pounds by the time he was a junior at North Central High School in Indianapolis, Ind. He attributed his weight gain to a sedentary lifestyle with computer games and plenty of food that he often slipped outside his house to get.

“I lived in denial. I didn’t want to change,” said Fogle. “The worst thing that could have happened was opening a (fast-food) restaurant in the dorm where I lived while attending Indiana University. The fast-food restaurant was open until 3 a.m.”

Later, Fogle’s room-mate, a pre-med student, recorded sounds during his sleep and let him listen. The student correctly diagnosed Fogle with sleep apnea and his father told him he might not live past 35.

Eventually, Fogle tried to lose weight.

I tried all kinds of diets ... and fell flat on my face,” recalled Fogle. Then he became interested in Subway's low-fat, low-calorie foods and enjoyed his first turkey sub sandwich. He developed his own "Subway diet,” consisting of a 6-inch turkey sub for lunch and a footlong veggie sub for dinner.

“During the first three months (after beginning the Subway diet) I dropped 94 pounds,” Fogle said. He stuck with the diet and soon began to walk as much as he could, rather than using transport. He would walk up the stairs rather than take an elevator. By the end of the diet Fogle had lost over 240 pounds.

Ryan Coleman, a former dorm mate, wrote an article about Fogle’s weight loss after he saw Fogle and hardly recognized him. “Men’s Health” magazine saw the article and included the “Subway sandwich diet” in an article about “Crazy Diets that Work.”

Officials of the Subway restaurant chain heard about Fogle’s weight loss, and, after proving he really existed, eventually launched an advertising campaign featuring Fogle.

The first spot aired on Jan. 1, 2000, introducing Jared and his story, complete with a disclaimer: “The Subway diet, combined with a lot of walking, worked for Jared. We’re not saying this is for everyone. You should check with your doctor before starting any diet program. But it worked for Jared.” Subway has 29,805 restaurants in 87 countries.

The commercial was a stunning success, and the day after it aired, Subway’s Chicago advertising agency President Barry Krause began receiving calls from USA Today, ABC News, Fox News, and Oprah. Fogle has become an international celebrity and speaks to thousands of children about fitness and a healthy lifestyle. He spoke to Somerset Christian School Tuesday morning and Science Hill Elementary School Tues-day afternoon.

Since Fogle’s advertising campaign began, Subway sales have more than doubled to $8.2 billion, though the portion of the gain attributable to Fogle and his more than 50 Subway commercials cannot be determined. In 2008, a Subway campaign celebrated Fogle's maintaining his weight loss for a full decade, with Fogle’s announcement that he would retire his old pair of 62-inch pants likely to a museum after a final “Tour de Pants”, a humorous reference to the Tour de France.

Fogle, affectionately known as the “Subway Guy,” currently weighs 190 pounds. He is 6 feet, 2 inches tall.

About representing Subway, Fogle says he loves what he does.

“I don’t have a real job. I don’t want a real job. I love what I do,” he laughed.

- “Subway Guy” Visits Somerset, Somerset-Kentucky.com, September 3, 2008.


2. The buzz Steven Gerrard’s appointment as Rangers manager generated is yet to completely fizzle out after his announcement a fortnight ago.

The Champions League-winning midfielder has no senior team managerial experience, but that hasn’t stopped Light Blues faithful from dreaming big.

Next season, Gerrard will go toe-to-toe with his former boss at Liverpool Brendan Rodgers, who is 90 minutes away from setting another record of leading Celtic to consecutive domestic trebles.

It’s a tough task ahead for the Reds legend, but former Motherwell striking sensation Michael Higdon believes his appointment will benefit Scottish football, and he claims he is the biggest signing in Scottish football history.


“I think Gerrard’s the biggest signing in Scottish football history. I don’t know if he’ll succeed, it’s his first job,” the 34-year-old told The Scottish Sun.

I don’t want to see him fall flat on his face. But it also wouldn’t surprise me. Neither would it surprise me if he did great. You just don’t know.

“He’ll give it all he can and if it’s not working then fair enough. But I think he will inspire that club. He’s that type of fella.”

- Michael Higdon claims Steven Gerrard is the biggest signing in Scottish football history, HITC.com, May 17, 2018.


3. Nepotism is an oft debated topic in Bollywood award shows and interviews but it is not a new concept, says Preity Zinta as she believes it is natural for parents to help their children.

Preity, an outsider herself, said the industry is dominated by people who have made a name for themselves, irrespective of where they come from.

“It is an age old thing that parents will help their children. Nepotism does exist. But then there are stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Deepika Padukone and others who are not from industry and are superstars,” she told PTI in an interview.

“There will always be nepotism and you can’t change that but one should never underestimate those who have hunger to prove themselves in the industry.


She says, as an actor, she needs to feel excited, nervous and challenged to bring her best onscreen.

“I am the worst person when I am too confident, then I don’t put efforts and feel I am amazing and I fall flat on my face.”

- Nepotism will always exist but you can’t stop those hungry to prove themselves: Zinta, Business-Standard.com, November 23, 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)


Team to beat? 最优秀的团队


Looming large? 赫然耸现


In your face? 咄咄逼人


Cut and dried? 已成定局


Body of work? 作品主体