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Ugly mug?

[ 2011-02-11 13:56]     字号 [] [] []  
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Ugly mug?

Reader question:

Please explain “ugly mug” in the following:

Every year this monster pothole sticks its ugly mug out. It's sure to flatten a tire if hit the right way, hidden right around the corner.

My comments:

“Mug” is colloquialism for someone’s face. Amongst the first things a new prisoner is asked to do, for example, is to have a mug shot taken for record keeping. Mug shot, a shot (picture) of his face.

In the above example, the pothole on the road is likened to a monster. And when the monster sticks its ugly face out of the surface of the road, it gives the driver a shudder, to say the least.

Anyways, “stick its ugly mug out” is an idiom, meaning for something unpleasant to happen, something bad you can’t ignore.

The standard expression is “rear its ugly head”. To “rear” is for an animal to raise itself up. For a bear to rear up, for example, is for the bear to rise upright to stand on its hind legs. Or a snake may rear by raising its head.

Or, from a dictionary example (Longman), “the horse reared and threw me off”.

You get the picture.

Why ugly then?

Ugly simply implies the unpleasantness of the situation. Therefore, use “rear its ugly head, face or mug” only in undesirable situations where a harsh reality is to be faced.

That’s the crucial point to remember.

At any rate, I’m sure you’ll be able to get the hang of it after further reading these media examples:

1. ugly mug:

The Rockets aren’t good enough as they're configured, so general manager Daryl Morey is working furiously to change the configuration.

His team needs talent, size, defense and rebounding. Carmelo Anthony appears to be at the top of his wish list, and Morey would trade for him without any guarantee of signing him to a long-term contract.

He knows Anthony wants to play for the Knicks, but at this point will take his chances. Morey also has asked about Chris Paul, Josh Smith, DeAndre Jordan, Anderson Varejao and a long list of others.

Everyone on the Rockets’ roster is available as the NBA’s February 24th trading deadline approaches, but some are more likely to go than others.

For instance, Shane Battier. He’s a poster boy for what we'd want every professional athlete to be. Morey likes Battier as much as the rest of us, but this is where real life sticks its ugly mug in.

Battier is exactly the kind of player good teams love. He brings two ingredients — defense and smarts - in short supply, and he’s a 10-year veteran in the final year of his contract.

So Battier’s greater value to the Rockets could be in acquiring a draft pick or young player. But Battier is just one example. The Rockets could be on their way to missing the playoffs for a second straight season, so Morey feels the pressure to change the mix.

- Change is coming, but in what form? Houston Chronicle, February 9, 2011.

2. ugly face:

But even as we recall man’s capacity for evil, Auschwitz also tells another story—of man’s capacity for good. The small acts of compassion—the sharing of some bread that kept a child alive. The great acts of resistance that blew up the crematorium and tried to stop the slaughter. The Polish Rescuers and those who earned their place forever in the Righteous Among the Nations.

And you—the survivors. The perpetrators of that crime tried to annihilate the entire Jewish people. But they failed. Because 65 years ago today, when the gates flew open, you were still standing. And every day that you have lived, every child and grandchild that your families have brought into the world with love, every day the sun rises on the Jewish state of Israel—that is the ultimate rebuke to the ignorance and hatred of this place.

So to those of you who have come back today, I say, no, you are not “former prisoners.” You are living memorials. Living memorials to the loved ones you left here. And to the spirit we must strive to uphold in our time—not simply to bear witness, but to bear a burden. The burden of seeing our common humanity; of resisting anti-Semitism and ignorance in all its forms; of refusing to become bystanders to evil, whenever and wherever it rears its ugly face.

- Full text of US President Barack Obama's message for the ceremony commemorating the 65th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, EJPress.org, January 28, 2010.

3. ugly head:

The Hindenburg Omen reared its ugly head late last week, signaling more doom and gloom as stocks plod along amid the dog days of summer.

The Omen, a technical indicator which uses a plethora of data to foreshadow a stock-market crash, was tripped again on Friday, marking the second time since Aug. 12 it has occurred. (It also came close on Thursday, but one of its criteria fell short.)

The latest trigger has prompted the Omen’s creator, Jim Miekka, to exit the market. “I’m taking it seriously and I’m fully out of the market now,” Miekka, a blind mathematician, said in a telephone interview from his home in Surry, Maine. “I would’ve probably stayed in until the beginning of September,” depending on how the indicators varied. “That was my basic plan, until the Hindenburg came along.”

The Omen has been behind every market crash since 1987, but significant stock-market declines have followed only 25% of the time. So there’s a high likelihood that the Omen could be nothing more than a false signal.

But that isn’t stopping Miekka from taking any chances, especially as September, typically the market’s worst-performing month, sits only one week away.

“It’s sort of like a funnel cloud,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s going to crash, but it’s a high probability. You don’t get a tornado without a funnel cloud.” He added he’s not currently shorting anything, although he may look to short Nasdaq stock index futures in the next few weeks, “depending on how the technicals go.”

- Yes Folks, Hindenburg Omen Tripped Again, Blogs.WSJ.com, August 23, 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.


Sitting duck

Lay an egg?

Answer the bell?

Cream of the crop?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)