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What's the deal?

[ 2009-02-17 10:03]     字号 [] [] []  
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What's the deal?

Reader question:

What does this – What's the deal with Jim tomorrow – mean?

My comments:

It means "What are we going to do tomorrow with Jerry?"

What's the plan? Are we going to visit his house in the country? Is he going to pick us up? Will there be time for a bit of mountain climbing? What about dinner? Who's gonna pay? Are we going to go Dutch?

So on and so forth. At any rate, there's no real "deal" in the form of a contract to propose, negotiate and sign.

"What's the deal" is an American colloquialism. Depending on context, it may mean: What's the situation? What's happening? What's wrong? What's the problem? What's the matter?

As it is with colloquialisms in general, all you need is see other people use it, and see it often – and you'll get the hang of it.

So therefore, without further ado, let's see the expression at work via media examples (explanation or paraphrasing in brackets is mine):

1. What's the deal with Harriet Miers?

(Why did Bush name White House counsel Miers, who's never been a judge, to the Supreme Court?)

By nominating Harriet Mires to the Supreme Court, President Bush is turning to a trusted advisor who has a reputation for keeping her mouth shut—and putting her in a key position for damage control. Her nomination might make people like Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and Tom DeLay breathe a little easier.

She is, as Bush has said, "a pit bull in size 6 shoes." If confirmed, Mires will be the president's woman on the Supreme Court. She would replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a Republican pick for the court who has turned out to be more of a swing voter than some right-wing Republicans would like.

- Villagevoice.com, September 27th 2005?

2. What's the deal with duty-free?

(What's the situation with duty-free? Tell me all about it)

For many travelers, duty-free is a luxurious enigma wrapped up in discounted Swiss chocolate and soaked in tax-free vodka. Duty-free goods are mostly sold inside international airport terminals, ferry stations, cruise ports and border stops.

As the name implies, duty-free shops sell products without duty (a.k.a. local import tax). For example, by buying goods in a duty-free shop at Paris's Charles de Gaulle, you avoid paying the duty that France slaps on imported goods (like Swedish vodka) and that French stores ordinarily include as part of a product's list price.

In Europe, there's a bonus perk: Duty-free shops in airports and ports are "tax-free shops," too, which means you are spared the value added tax (or V.A.T., a type of sales tax) that would otherwise be included in the price of goods sold elsewhere in the European Union. That means a savings of between 5 and 25 percent, depending on the country.

- Msnbc.msn.com, January 29, 2009.

3. What's the deal with the 250 mini-earthquakes at Yellowstone?

(What's happening at Yellowstone? Is the super volcano beneath ready to blow?)

This last happened at the Yellowstone volcano approximately 650,000 years ago. The caldera that it left is 53 miles long and 28 miles wide. In the area surrounding Yellowstone, 3000 square miles were subjected to a flow of pyroclastic material composed of 240 cubic miles of hot ash and pumice. Ash was also thrown into the atmosphere and blanketed much of North America. It can still be identified in core samples from as far away as the Gulf of Mexico.


Another catastrophic eruption is also possible. The effects of such a disaster are hard to even comprehend. Bill McGuire, professor of geohazards at the Benfield Greig Hazard Research Centre at the University College of London told the UK Daily Express, "Magma would be flung 50 kilometers into the atmosphere. Within a thousand kilometers virtually all life would be killed by falling ash, lava flows and the sheer explosive force of the eruption. One thousand cubic kilometers of lava would pour out of the volcano, enough to coat the whole USA with a layer 5 inches thick." He adds that it would once again bring "the bitter cold of Volcanic Winter to Planet Earth. Mankind may become extinct."

- Boingboing.net, December 30, 2008.

4. What's the deal?

(What's happening? What's the bargain?)

Ten luxury hotels in New York are offering a third night free through Feb. 27. Participants include the Plaza, Loews Regency and Trump International Hotel & Tower. Prices vary. For example, rates at the Jumeirah Essex House start at $339 per night for the first two nights (plus 13.4 percent taxes), with the third night free (except taxes). Details and hotel promo codes: http://www.nycgo.com/thirdnight. The deal can be booked online for some hotels, but telephone reservations are preferred.

- Washingtonpost.com, January 18, 2009.



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.