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Freak of nature

[ 2009-11-13 14:48]     字号 [] [] []  
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Freak of natureReader question:

Please explain “freak of nature” as in: “Yao is a freak of nature. For his height, having the agility that he has is very impressive.”

My comments:

It means that Yao Ming is unusual.

That’s an understatement, of course. A “freak of nature” is more than a little unusual, but very unusual, abnormal, strange and sometimes to the point of frightening. Do you know the phrase “freak out”? For example: “In the dark, my hand inadvertently touched upon the head of the snake and it really freaked me out.” That’s the idea of something freakish.

Referring to a person or animal, “freak of nature” describes something physically strange. “The lamb is a freak of nature”, for instance, “because it has two tails”.

In the example from the top, Yao is described, favorably in his case, as “a freak of nature” because he’s large and yet is agile. Most giants can not move around as swiftly as Yao can, not to mention the skills Yao has as a basketball player.

Freak of nature, by the way, is decidedly a human concept and definitely not a naturalist’s point of view. I mean, if you’re a real naturalist, you will understand that “freak of nature” is an oxymoron because there’s no such thing as a freak of nature. I mean, nature is innately freakish – random and capricious, come rain or shine. Call it a torpedo or cyclone, typhoon or tropical storm, nature is freakish, or miraculous if you like. To the human mind, the storm is freakish only because humans have formed this strange idea of normalcy. In the eyes of a naturalist, everything is unique, normal, miraculous and wonderful.

The moral? Well, next time it snows and the road gets slippery, don’t be depressed (as though it snowed to spite you). Instead, go out and roll a snowball. Enjoy it before it melts.

One more thing, as the Yao example demonstrates, the English language is explanatory – you can best learn about words and phrases through context. In the following media examples, too, all the freakishness of those freaks of nature mentioned is explained within the surrounding sentences, or paragraphs as the case may be:

1. His name is George Foreman, and to me he is one of the biggest physical freaks of nature in sports history. Think about it, he has just about the highest knockout percentage in heavyweight history. Yet he was an arm puncher. He’s the last guy you’d want teaching your fighter how to punch, because he didn't know how from a fundamental or technical vantage point. Basically, he throws a punch like a novice slaps, only his arm has a balled fist at the end.

When you match him up with past heavyweight greats as a fighter on paper, he should lose every time. George wasn’t a good boxer, nor was he very fast, and his stamina was questionable in the 70’s. Foreman fought with no strategy or game plan. His offense was his defense. And his attack plan was nothing more than throwing punches in the vicinity of his opponent in hopes of just maybe one of them connecting.

What George Foreman could do was punch. When you break Foreman down as a fighter, what can you really say about him? Sure he was very tough mentally and was also fearless. He had a great chin and his punching power was unmatched. His jab was a sledgehammer, and his hook and uppercut had neck-breaking power. However, all of those things, except for his mental strength and toughness, tie into his God given physical strength.

Foreman is sort of like Ali in a way. He did everything wrong, but his power bailed him out. Where Ali did everything wrong and was a flawed boxer, his speed outran and hid all of his mistakes, until father time caught him. That’s what makes Foreman so amazing to me. At age 45 he was able to win the title from the man who beat the man. After a ten-year layoff, he still had the power to win the title and was even avoided by some, Mike Tyson for one.

- George Foreman: A Physical Freak Of Nature, By Frank Lotierzo, TheWweetScience.com, June 15, 2004.

2. For a fighter to start his career at 106 pounds and fight his way to 147 pounds is unheard of. And to make it an even greater accomplishment he has done it successfully, collecting numerous world titles on the way. Manny Pacquiao is a freak of nature. Never have I seen a fighter jump from weight class to weight class as Manny Pacquiao has. Most fighters lose both speed and power as they put on weight; this has not been the case with Manny Pacquiao, who has only gotten faster and stronger with each fight that has gone by.

- Manny Pacquiao Remains Boxing’s Little Big Man, By Kenny Perrault, BraggingRightsCorner.com, November 11, 2009.

3. Shattering a tournament scoring record for the second time in eight days, Woods ambled around storied East Lake Golf Club in 23 under this week to win the Tour Championship by a record eight strokes and secure the largest cash bonus in sports history, $10 million.

Add it up and Woods received a staggering $11.26 million in actual or deferred pay Sunday, which, even for a guy with his considerable wallet, is enough dinero to get his attention.

As if Woods doesn't have enough career objectives, winning the FedEx gave him another goal to add to his gotta-do list.

“You throw another thing at him, it just makes it even worse for us,” cracked Zach Johnson, who finished in a tie for second. “Why give him another thing to try to achieve? It’s a carrot, you’re right, and he’s a very driven man. When you add another element to the drive, what do you do?”

Fight for the table scraps, really.

“The man is a freak,” Johnson said, pausing for dramatic effect, “of nature.”

- Title for Tiger: ‘The man is a freak of nature’, By Steve Elling, CBSSports.com, September 16, 2007.



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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