English 中文网 漫画网 爱新闻iNews 翻译论坛
当前位置: Language Tips> 译通四海> Columnist 专栏作家> Zhang Xin

Writing on the wall

[ 2009-09-11 11:14]     字号 [] [] []  
免费订阅30天China Daily双语新闻手机报:移动用户编辑短信CD至106580009009
Writing on the wall

Reader question:

Could you explain “the writing on the wall” in this sentence - Bill saw the writing on the wall and resigned his job before he was dismissed?

My comments:

Bill resigned before he was dismissed because he knew he was going to be dismissed anyway.

He knew he was in trouble due to his incompetence, poor disciplinary record or, say, the global recession at large. The point is, anything having to do with “the writing on the wall” is doomed. Bill had to go.

The expression “writing on the wall” derives from a story in the Christian Bible, Daniel 5:5/6 (King James Version):

In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.

Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.

The supernatural handwriting mentioned in the Bible foretold the demise of the Babylonian Empire. “Writing on the wall” hence became synonymous with danger and especially inevitable doom or failure. Anytime anyone says “the writing is on the wall”, they see trouble. Look for cover.

“Writing in the all” is nowadays used figuratively, of course, with no actual “writing” or “wall” involved.

Here are two recent media examples:

1. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford forcefully rejected his lieutenant governor’s request that he resign for the good of the state Wednesday...

On Tuesday, Rep. Nathan Ballentine, a Sanford ally in the Legislature, met with the governor privately and warned him that unless he steps down, House Republicans are likely to impeach him. Sanford rejected his plea.

“Barring some swing of momentum in his favor, I told him the writing is on the wall,” Ballentine told CNN.

- Sanford rejects call for resignation from lieutenant governor, CNN, August 26, 2009.

2. What of the Niger-Delta bombings: does that sound like a chapter in a romance novel? On the other hand, are we talking about the recent visit by Mrs. Clinton who seems to have answered our own express invitation to come and insult us? Remember that not too long ago Nigerians and the Nigerian government expressed great bitterness that Obama chose to go to Ghana instead of Nigeria. The American government may have thought it wise to send their Secretary of state to come and tell us some home truths since we have refused to read the handwriting on the wall. As I was trying to chew the bitter kola Hilary served on arrival, another electoral violence broke out in Ekiti Senatorial re-run election, sign posting what to expect in less than two years from now in the general elections.

- Nigeria: The Dearth of Good News, AllAfrica.com, August 31, 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.


Best of both worlds

David doesn’t do failure

Run its course?

Nobody messes with Joe