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Shot across the bow? 警告性的一击

中国日报网 2024-03-27 15:51


Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, particularly “shot across the bow”: Interest rate rise is a “shot across the bow” for borrowers.

My comments:

Interest, first of all, is the money a lender – say, a bank – gets for lending out money. From the borrower’s point, it’s the additional money you have to fork out when you repay the loan from the bank.

The interest rate refers to the proportion of the loan charged as interest, usually expressed in percentage points. If you borrow 100 dollars at an interest rate of 10 percent, for instance, the interest will be 10 percent. And when you return the loan, you’ll have to pay the bank 110 dollars, i.e. the borrowed amount plus 10 dollars in interest.

If you borrow 100 dollars at 5 percent interest rate on the other hand, then, when you pay back the loan, you’ll need only to fork out 105 dollars instead.

As you can see, the higher the interest rate, the more expensive a loan is for the borrower.

Hence, an interest rate rise becomes a “shot across the bow” for borrowers, or a warning to borrowers, warning them not to over-borrow in case they cannot pay it back.

Apparently what has happened previously is that interest rates have been low, encouraging businesses to borrow and to invest.

If the interest rate is at 0 percent, for example, as is the case in Japan for some time, then it means borrowed money is free, at no additional cost.

Zero or low interest rates are meant to encourage businesses to borrow and to invest, in order to expand an otherwise stagnant or slowing economy.

People may overdo it in consequence, of course, borrowing without restraint. They may overinvest and end up losing big – when some of their reckless investments fail to deliver.

So, a rise in interest rate is meant to stop that, serving as a warning that borrowed money happens at a cost. So be careful.

Back to a shot across the bow.

Literally, a shot across the bow refers to a cannon shot across the bow of a battleship.

The bow or bows refers to the front or shoulders of a ship. When a ship saw an enemy ship in the old days, they would sometimes launch a shot across the bow of the enemy ship. This was the warning shot, serving to remind the enemy ship that we saw you and that we’re ready to battle.

So, in other words, don’t misbehave.

From this literal meaning comes the figurative meaning, a warning in general.

More explanation from Gary Martin, known the Phrase Finder (Phrases.org.uk):

‘A shot across the bows' derives from the naval practice of firing a cannon shot across the bows of an opponent’s ship to show them that you are prepared to do battle. The first mention of it I can find in print is this piece from the Wisconsin Democrat, December 1939, reprinted from the UK paper The London Metropolitan:

“In a very brief space we neared our victim, a large merchantman, whose appearance promised at once an easy conquest and a rich booty. At a signal from Stamar, a shot was fired across her bows to bring her to. She immediately hoisted a white flag.”

The more general figurative use of the expression, just to mean warning, is a 20th century innovation; for example, this piece from The Fresno Bee Republican, just prior to WWII, in August 1937:

“When the situation In Central Europe becomes threatening in the eyes of the great public, when press and official telegrams point to an immediate danger, the United States government will fire the third warning shot across the bows.”

All right, here are a few contemporary examples of “shot across the bow”:

1. Donald Trump gave his first interview to Univision on Thursday and reminded the nation that should he resume the presidency, he could very well embark on a revenge tour against his political enemies. The next morning his son, Don Jr., floated installing an acting attorney general who wants to unleash a “reign of terror” against those responsible for Trump’s indictments, as well as a pro-white nationalist press secretary.

“What they’ve done is they’ve released the genie out of the box,” Trump told Univion’s Enrique Acevedo of the many indictments and criminal cases currently leveled against him. “If they do this and they’ve already done it, but if they want to follow through on this, yeah, it could certainly happen in reverse.”

“If I happen to be president, and I see somebody who is doing well and beating me very badly, I’ll say, ‘go down and indict them,’” he added.

The morning after the interview aired, Trump called for New York Attorney General Letitia James to be prosecuted over what – in his view – is a wrongful civil fraud prosecution by the state against him, and his real estate empire.

“Judge Engoron should end the ridiculous Political Witch Hunt against me,” Trump wrote Friday on Truth Social. “The only Fraud was committed by A.G. Letitia James in convincing the Judge that Mar-a-Lago was only worth $18,000,000 […] She should be prosecuted!”

The Univision interview and his social media posts aren’t the first time Trump has threatened to go after rival politicians and public servants he believes have targeted him unfairly. As previously reported by Rolling Stone, the former president has already tasked his advisers with creating a plan to exact his revenge against Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and Special Counsel Jack Smith.

During a June speech in Florida, delivered hours after he pleaded not guilty to 37 criminal counts brought against him by the Justice Department, Trump vowed to appoint a “real special prosecutor to go after the most corrupt president in the history of the United States of America, Joe Biden. And the entire Biden crime family.”


That special prosecutor could potentially find themselves under the direction of Mike Davis, a former aide to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch who has been floated as a potential pick for Trump’s attorney general, including by Don Jr. this week.

“There are a couple people you could put in positions like that, we talk about Mike Davis as Attorney General,” Trump Jr. said during a Q&A segment on his podcast. “You almost have to, just put them in as interim even, just to send that shot across the bow to the swamp … let Mike Davis and Kash Patel to be like interim AG’s. Put Laura Loomer as press secretary for just a couple of days.”

- Trump Warns He Could ‘Certainly’ Indict Political Opponents if He’s Reelected, RollingStone.com, November 10, 2023.

2. The dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic helped transform Sabine Hossenfelder into an unlikely social media star. In the process, she has raised a few eyebrows among her fellow scientists. She’s also made an important discovery that just might bode well for her future research.

Hossenfelder turned to YouTube “to keep my sanity” when she was unable to go to her office at Germany's Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies. Actually, you might say she returned. She'd started a channel in 2007 but just hadn't been very active. Then came a rebranding – Science without the gobbledygook. Today, she has 1 million subscribers (up from 50,000) and also enjoys a strong and growing contingent of Patreon supporters.

Several times a month, the theoretical physicist and mathematician drops a new video, dispensing her dry wit and pithy wisdom to a loyal fan base of nerds across the internet.

She takes her role as a science communicator seriously, aiming her videos at an audience seeking context. “People can go to my channel and get the brief, 20-minute summary,” Hossenfelder says. “They don’t have to read a whole book or download a review article, which they won’t understand anyway.”

Her channel stakes out the no-man's land between gee-whiz science and the heavyweight journals. From her experience as a freelance writer, Hossenfelder says she “knew full-well that there were stories you just can’t get by an editor, not because they're wrong, but because they have no timely hook.” She aims to fill that gap.

It all comes packaged with a spoonful of humor to help the science go down:

Are we all living in a computer simulation? “I quite like the idea ... it gives me hope that things will be better on the next level,” she says.

Why does 5G technology use high frequencies? “There's a reason they haven't been previously used for telecommunication, and it's not because millimeter waves are also used as goodbyes for in-laws.”

Hossenfelder’s science channel has also become a ready platform for her somewhat contrarian views on the state of physics. Among them is what she sees as the problem of beauty, the pursuit of simplicity. Specifically, how her colleagues who try to fathom the fundamental underpinnings of the universe are obsessed with it.

As far back as the Renaissance, scientists have sought compact and elegant descriptions of space, time and motion: a sort of scientific version of Occam’s razor – that the simplest explanation tends to be the correct one. But as we seek answers in a complex universe, Hossenfelder cautions that the quest for simplicity could be a dead end. Her 2018 book on the topic, Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray, served as something of a shot across the bow of modern physics.

- She got famous on YouTube. Now it helps fund her research in quantum gravity, NPR.com, September 23, 2023.

3. Peter Laviolette III, the son of New York Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette, was ejected for misconduct (continuing an altercation) last Saturday night and his reaction is only just now going public.

With 11:05 remaining in the third period, Steven Leonard of the Reading Royals incited a fight, dropped the gloves and engaged Laviolette. The Wheeling Nailers forward was subsequently sent to the locker room alongside Leonard.

However, Laviolette did not go quietly. Instead, he decided to fire a shot across the bow of officials, imitating a blind man with a walking stick much to the surprise of some of those behind the glass.

Were Laviolette’s actions disrespectful? Without a doubt. Were they also quite amusing? It’s hard to argue to the contrary.

While most saw the humor in Laviolette’s little skit, some across social media were offended and referred to him as a spoiled rich kid. Others also took aim at his father, claiming the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

- Son of NHL coach pulls most disrespectful move against referee, February 17, 2024.


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)


Won’t stand for it? 不能容忍


From here on out? 从此以后


Road rage? 路怒症


Hasn’t looked back? 一发而不可收


Trigger happy? 乱开枪

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