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By the book?

[ 2009-07-03 11:09]     字号 [] [] []  
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By the book?Reader question:

In this sentence - She is one of the most by-the-book people I ever know - what does “by the book” mean?

My comments:

It means she abides by the book – she’s a law-abiding citizen.

In other words, she obeys rules. She won’t do anything illegal, immoral or improper, anything outside the book.

The book obviously refers to the rulebook or the book of law (In the olden days, it referred to the Bible, as in “I swear by the book that this is true”). When somebody’s punished for wrongdoing, it’s often said that he’s brought to the book, that it, he’s punished in accordance with the law or in sports the rulebook, a whole set of rules and regulations to ensure the game is played in a lawful – that is, sportsmanlike – manner.

In soccer, for instance, if a player commits a serious offense, such as tackling an opponent from behind, it is said he’s committed a bookable offense, one that is serious enough to warrant punishment according to the rulebook. In this case the player is shown a yellow card, which is a warning. The player is also described as being booked (brought to book). A second yellow card, i.e. a second bookable offense, results in a red card, which means ejection – the player is no longer allowed to participate in the rest of the match.

Alright, now that you’ve mastered the book itself, let’s examine media examples:

1. by the book (legally):

Close readers of this newspaper this week may notice a request for bids for milk to be used in several town programs. Consider for a second that East Hampton Town has probably been buying milk for 50 years; this is the first time it has done it by the book.

- Buying Milk By the Book, EastHamptonStar.com, July 2, 2009.

2. brought to book (punished):

And Mr Banda said the Government and some donors that had temporarily suspended aid to the Ministry of Health had been meeting to chart the way forward.

He said the donors had explained that the move was not meant to punish Zambians but give room to investigations so that those who had stolen money were brought to book.

He said the donors had a duty to explain to the taxpayers on how their money was being utilized.

Some donors have withheld funding to the Ministry of Health following the recent revelations of K27 billion theft of project funds.

- ‘Major pay hikes risky’, Times of Zambia, June 25, 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.


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