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Rock bottom?

[ 2010-01-19 14:27]     字号 [] [] []  
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Rock bottom?Reader question:

Please explain “rock bottom” in this passage (Rockets seek recommitment to defensive ideals, Houston Chronicle, January 16, 2010):

“Hopefully, we can use (Friday’s loss) as rock bottom,” forward Luis Scola said. “I don't know if it was that bad, but we can use it as rock bottom to bounce back and get back where we were like 20 games ago.”

My comments:

Rock bottom means the lowest point possible. Here Scola, a member of the Houston Rockets basketball team, sees the team’s performance in its latest loss as the worst and expects it to improve.

“Rock bottom” is an American idiom dating back to 1865–70 (Random House Dictionary) and it, referring to the layer of hard rock at the bottom of a well or something, probably came from oil inspecting. If you dig for water and hit rock bottom, it means you’ve hit the bedrock and cannot go down any further.

Hence metaphorically speaking, if something hits rock bottom, it reaches the lowest level.

This phrase if often used today in the phrase “rock bottom price”, meaning the lowest price of a commodity.

I saw a sign the other day at a little shop around the corner of the street by which I live reading – “Rock bottom prices, lowest in the city.” There’s also a loudspeaker blaring out pre-recorded messages, such as: “tearful clearance”, “shop relocating”, “dirt cheap giveaway”.

It being a 10-yuan store, most items on sale are dirty cheap as they always are but the thing is, there are definitely no tearful clerks running around mourning parting company with their beloved goods whatsoever. And neither the shop is relocating anytime soon because locals have been hearing the same sales message for a year.

Just tricky vendors doing anything to elicit a sale.

Speaking of tricky vendors, I once had a funny conversation with an artful vendor down Panjiayuan at the fake antiques market.

“How much is this?” I asked, pointing to a piece of china on the floor.

“Do you really want it?” replied the vendor, sizing me up.

“Well, what if I really want it?” I said mechanically, but couldn’t help wondering what earnestness has got to do with it.

“If you’re sincere and really want it,” he said, “I ask 200 kuai. If you are just a casual inquirer, I ask 800.”

That means if I buy it, I can have it for 200. If I don’t buy it, he can keep for 800. Well, I decided to remain a casual inquirer that time.

Anyways, here are media examples of “rock bottom”:

1. Even before Dubai’s financial crisis, the sheikdom’s growing economic woes had begun rippling out across the Arab world, forcing workers like Tamimi back to their home countries, where jobs are scarce and wages often rock bottom. That is eating away at the money many Middle East families depend on, sent home from relatives who work in Persian Gulf countries and emirates such as Dubai.

It is bad news for the Arab world, where chronic economic stagnation, high unemployment and low-paying jobs have long caused frustration among workers, especially the young.

- Dubai’s downturn sends ripples throughout Arab world, AP, January 13, 2010.

2. Yes, HD is bigger than ever and more people have HD-ready sets in their homes, but prices have hit rock bottom. You only have to look in your local Asda to see the results of this.

Rock-bottom prices are not great for TV manufacturers. Although they always want TVs to be ‘affordable’, there needs to be enough space in the pricing to make a profit.

- 3D TV: the sets heading your way in 2010, TechRadar.com, January 14, 2010.



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.


On the ropes?

Knock-on effect

Learn the ropes?

Cannot have too many?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)