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Cannot have too many?

[ 2010-01-05 13:17]     字号 [] [] []  
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Cannot have too many?

Gil asks:

In the following passages from a Time Magazine article (Alone on the Range, By Don Morrison, May 2, 2007) about a book written by May-Lee Chai, Hapa Girl (a memoir about her growing up half-Chinese in America), what does the last sentence, marked out in bold type, mean?

Hapa Girl (the adjective is a Hawaiian word for mixed race) is published by Temple University Press. Why the book did not find a commercial publisher is a mystery. The writing is vigorous, and Chai’s descriptions of the murderous winters and corrosive boredom of the Great Plains are compelling. Besides, Chai is hardly an unknown: The Girl from Purple Mountain, the World War II family history she co-authored with her father, was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award. Could it be racism, stalking the hapa girl once again?

More likely, Chai’s book suffers from a surfeit of coming-of-age memoirs by Asian Americans, as well as a blessed obsolescence: China’s diaspora has largely fared well in the U.S. since Chai was a girl. Her father even tells her, “There’s no such thing as racism against Chinese. You just don't know how to get along with people.”

If only. The U.S. has a curious preoccupation with race, which runs through its history like a varicose vein, half-buried and chronically painful. Just ask disgraced talk-show host Don Imus and the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, or any Arab American trying to board a flight. Hapa Girl is a reminder that Americans cannot have too many reminders of the un-American things they do when they’re afraid.

My comments:

“Cannot have too many” is the tricky phrase here, Gil. To paraphrase the last line:

Hapa Girl serves as a reminder of the terrible things Americans do to each other due to their differences in skin color. This is a good reminder and we need more books like this because America cannot have enough good reminders of its raciest past.

In other words, the more such books, the better.

Now, “cannot have too many” is a set phrase. It means you cannot have enough of something. Well, normally we CAN have enough of anything. Money, for instance, is great if we have enough of it. Not too much, just enough, not even more than enough because it can be too much of a good thing (ask any ultra rich and they’ll tell you how terrible it can be to have more money than you know what to do with – if they’re truly honest with themselves, that is).

Anyways, if you cannot have too many of something, you cannot have enough of it. And that means you want more of it. In other words, the more you have it, the merrier you are.

Here are two recent media examples:

1. Nobody can ever have too many pairs of jeans, and thus the philosophy of GOV Retailing is to make them available on the cheap — a notion that is paying off for the new g.u. chain.

GOV Retailing, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fast Retailing Co., began selling ¥990 jeans at its 69 g.u. outlets on March 10. That's a quarter of what denim pants sell for at Fast Retailing's Uniqlo stores, which have set the new standard for low-priced clothing and are thriving on the recession...

University student Saki Obi, 18, hanging out at a g.u. shop in Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, after school recently, said, “Jeans are a type of clothing we cannot have too many of, so it helps a great deal that they are so cheap.”

- Cheap jeans fitting well in recession, Japan Times, April 15, 2009.

2. If Bent does leave the club, Redknapp has reiterated his desire to bring Real Madrid striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar to north London...

“If any top-class player becomes available then you have to be interested...You cannot have too many good players.”

- Bent apologizes for online rant, BBC.co.uk, July 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.


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(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)