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Lay an egg?

[ 2011-01-28 12:32]     字号 [] [] []  
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Lay an egg?

Reader question:

Please explain “lay an egg”, as in: “Flyers lay an egg Sunday, drop yet another contest at UMass” (Topix.com, January 10, 2011).

My comments:

What eggs? You wonder.

Quit wondering or looking for them. No real eggs around here.

By saying the Flyers “lay an egg”, the writer simply wants to convey the idea that the Flyers, a basketball team from the University of Dayton, Ohio suffered an embarrassing loss against UMass, (University of Massachusetts).

I don’t follow US college basketball, but I’ve got a similar example from the pro ball. A few years ago, I came across this headline “Spurs Lay an Egg at Home Against Toronto”.

That was a game played on December 28, 2007, a long time ago to be sure, in which the San Antonio Spurs, a strong team, a powerhouse in fact from Texas lost their home game against the Toronto Raptors, 83-73.

The Raptors are, to this day, widely considered to be a weakling in the NBA, hence the ridicule inferred from that headline: Spurs Lay an Egg at Home.

Anyways, the idiom “lay an egg” means for someone to embarrass or disappoint with their performance. The “egg” here is not a real egg, as from a chick or duck, but originally stands for the number “0”, which is shaped like an egg.

In China, we have a similar saying in “he scored an egg”, say, in math, meaning he scored 0 (zero points) in a school test(考试得了个鸭蛋,即零分).

Same idea. In English, whenever people use the expression that someone “laid an egg”, you may infer that they failed, and failed big time.

The expression is used a lot in sports, as evidenced by the two examples we have gone through here. But it can be used, always figuratively of course in other areas as well.

Here are examples (all culled from media headlines) – see if you can figure out the messages (of disappoint, frustration, embarrassment, ridicule) hidden underneath:

1. Gamecocks lay an egg in loss to UConn, 20-7 (KnoxNews.com, January 3, 2010).

2. Don’t lay an egg with food inspection reform (JournalTimes.com, August 25, 2010).

3. Financials Lay an Egg (TheStreet.com, January 19, 2011).

4. Best of the Web Today: Birthers Lay an Egg (WSJ.com, July 28, 2009).

5. Birthers Lay an Egg - Without dissent, the House declares President Obama a native of Hawaii (WSJ.com, July 28, 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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