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Wild card

[ 2009-07-10 13:19]     字号 [] [] []  
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Wild cardReader question:

Please explain “wild card”, as in “This man is a wild card, we have no idea what he's going to do.”

My comments:

“Wild card” reminds me of Goran Ivanisevic the tennis player but first, definitions.

In the example from above, when that man is considered to be a wild card, it means that he’s unknown and, especially, unpredictable – “we have no idea what he’s going to do” next.

“Wild card” as an idiom originally comes from card playing. Of the 54 cards in a set or deck, 52 are numbered 1 to 13 in four colors or suits, i.e. clubs, spades, hearts and diamonds. The other are the two jokers, or clowns. The jokers are usually designated wild cards and that means they can represent any other card in the game, thus giving themselves unpredictably useful value and their holders great additional power.

This great additional plus unpredictable value is the quality of the wild card. When applied to a person, it means they’re the unknown entity, or the X factor as they say, often the difference maker, someone, say, who may make or break a deal.

The term, however, is nowadays most widely used in sports, which brings us back to the afore-mentioned Ivanisevic, the tennis player from Croatia who won Wimbledon in 2001 as a wild card but, again, definitions first.

In sports tournaments, such as tennis at the famed lawns of Wimbledon, only a number of top ranked players are allowed entry. Lower ranked players have to play one or more qualifying rounds in order to join the big party. Aside from these are the wild cards, players who are invited by the organizers after special consideration.

These players are aptly called wild cards presumably because they’re called in from the wild – otherwise they’d be in the wilderness.

Wild card

Anyways, in 2001, Wimbledon gave a wild card to Ivanisevic in honor of his previous achievements – he had been a runner-up three times. He was ranked 125 in the world, which was not good enough for eligibility. The upshot is, Ivanisevic took the invitation and took this opportunity well.

And how well he took this opportunity – he won seven games in a row to win the tournament, becoming the only player in history to do so.

Thus and therefore, Ivanisevic is best remembered as the wild card winner at Wimbledon.

Very wild indeed.



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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