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Pot shot?

[ 2010-06-18 11:31]     字号 [] [] []  
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Pot shot?Reader question:

What does this sentence - he takes pot shots at the president whenever he gets a chance - mean? What are pot shots?

My comments:

Pot shots are random shots a shooter takes at his prey, without taking firm aim at a particular target.

In the above example, when he (a reporter for example), takes pot shots at the president, he criticizes the president’s every move without perhaps giving strong evidence to back up the criticism every time. And the fact that he does it “whenever he gets a chance” suggests that he may not always be fair.

Anyways, “pot shot” originally comes from the gunshots a hunter took at a flock of birds or a pack of deer. In the old days when hunters hunt for food, he would take shots like that – at the group rather than any individual prey – because he didn’t care which one bird or deer he hit so long as he hit one. In other words, his shots were not aimed at, say, an Olympic record but simple for the pot, the cooking pot, that is.

Hence, pot shots became synonymous with random, inaccurate shots.

Metaphorically, it means giving criticism without careful thought. And as a result, such criticism may not be entirely accurate and fair.

Here are two recent media examples of people taking pot shots:

1. Just as South Africa opened their World Cup with a goal that will be remembered forever, so England, as is their wont, contrived to open theirs with a goalkeeping blunder that will never be forgotten. No sooner had Fabio Capello placed his confidence in Robert Green than his judgment was mocked by the sort of bungle no professional footballer can comfortably watch, an unforced error that allowed the United States back into a game on which England appeared to have a comfortable grip after Steven Gerrard’s early goal.

While Green will inevitably carry the can for this disappointment, in truth it was not a great England performance, just a great start. The American goal may have been a fluke, yet it came about because England were defending too deep and allowing their opponents to take pot shots. Far too little was seen of England’s attacking players – Capello even turned to Peter Crouch before the end – to place all the blame on the goalkeeper.

- England 1, USA 1: England miss out on fine start as USA benefit from Robert Green gaffe, June 12, 2010, Guardian.co.uk.

2. Sarah Palin was not a founder of the Tea Party but she fit in nicely. It is an ultra-conservative political movement made up of right wing conservative Republicans and independents who are angry with the government.

Their conspiracy theories include one that the president is deliberately undermining the Constitution for the benefit of a shadowy elite. In her speech, for which she was paid $100,000, Mrs. Palin marked off the administration’s foreign policy which is designed to reinstate America’s credibility in the world, as “apologizing for America.” She took potshots at the president, accusing him of a “lackadaisical” attitude to the war on terrorism. “To win the war, we need a commander in chief, not a professor of law.”

The Tea Party believers promise to “take back America” from its dangerous drift to the left and restore states’ rights and individual rights – themes the “hockey mom” from Alaska strongly endorses.

She called the Tea Party “the future of politics in America.” Fortunately, at this point, it is a disorganized, shapeless minority. But they have the indestructible Sarah Palin on their side.

- Sarah Palin is still around, MB.com.ph, March 10, 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.


Get real

Second opinion?

Only game in town?

Shooting for the stars

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)