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A die-hard Teresa Teng fan?

[ 2011-01-17 10:16]     字号 [] [] []  
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A die-hard Teresa Teng fan?

Lin asks:

I know the word “die”, and I know the word “hard” but I don’t understand it when they are bundled together – I don’t know why “die-hard” (as in “a die-hard Teresa Teng fan”) means loyalty (邓丽君的忠实粉丝). Please explain.

My comments:

A great question.

In “a die-hard Teresa Teng fan”, “die-hard” serves as an adjective. It can work as a verb as well. We can work the phrase around and say the Teresa Teng fans die hard. The great songstress from Taiwan died in 1995 but her followers are still everywhere. Most of these fans are 40 years or older – but they’re not going away. That’s why they called “die hard”.

Literally, to die hard is to, well, and die in the hard way, not ceasing to be easily. This term is originally derived from the old practice of putting a criminal to death by hanging. This is a die-hard practice itself, you may say, as in 2010 “at least 238 hangings were recorded in six countries, down from 337 in seven countries during 2009” (CapitalPunishmentUK.org).

In death by hanging, a knot of rope hanging from overhead beams is tied to a prisoner’s neck. He then is ordered to climb onto, say, a chair, which supports his weight. Then the chair is removed, leaving the prisoner hanging, suspended in the air, to die.

Some die instantly – in a matter of seconds or a few minutes. Others don’t. In a book I’ve just finished reading, Capote Truman’s In Cold Blood, a true account of a murder of a farmer family back in 1959 America, one of the murderers, Richard Hickock “hung for all to see a full twenty minutes before the prison doctor at last said, ‘I pronounce this man dead’.”

Let’s spare us gruesome details but the long and short of it is, those prisoners who took longer than usual to die were first described as “die hard”.

Over time, the phrase has spread to other spheres of the social life. Today, we most often hear, for instance, that “old traditions die hard”, meaning traditional ideas still hold sway, refusing to give way to new ideas. In China, for example, we are extremely fond of saying “feudal ideals die hard”, or “peasant attitudes die hard.” We are not fond of feudal ideals or peasant attitudes, of course. We’re just fond of reminding each other that these ideas and attitudes still, in spite of ourselves, run our lives and society at large.

They shouldn’t. Their times were past, or so we’d like to think. But they’re still here. Like the hanging prisoner, feudal ideals and peasant attitudes are stubborn, hard to kill off, incredibly resilient in face of change and fresh challenge.

Which is the figurative meaning, of course, of anything or any one that’s die-hard – they’re stubborn, steadfast in clinging to their old beliefs and are very resistant to change.

Yes, times change and the majority of the people have moved on to idolize new pop singers and songstresses of the day. Yet many have not “advanced with the times”, so to speak and continue to maintain their affinity and loyalty Teresa Teng.

Which is great. In the humble opinion of yours truly, this only serves as testament to the greatness of Teng.

Yes, you guessed it right; the author of these pages is a die-hard fan of Teng also.



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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