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He did himself few favors?

[ 2011-02-15 13:14]     字号 [] [] []  
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He did himself few favors?

Reader question:

Please explain “he did himself few favors” in this sentence: He did himself few favors by making silly comments and turning himself into an easy target.

My comments:

That means he’s doing himself no good by making silly comments and things like that.

In other words, these comments do not help because they turn himself into an easy target (draw criticism and bad publicity).

Still in other words, they were not doing him a service, but a disservice.

If he keeps doing things like that (making silly comments), he’ll ruin his chances of success and have only himself to blame.

Two points here, the concept of favors and the phrase “do somebody a favor”.

First, a favor essentially is something helpful. And if you do somebody a favor, you offer them some sort of help. “Do me a favor, please and turn off that light.” In this, you’re asking someone to lend you a hand.

In short, favors are meant to be helpful – they help people along, leading them up to a more FAVORable position.

Doing them few favors on the other hand means that you’re not being helpful.

One of my favorite favor-currying anecdotes is this passage in Joseph Heller’s anti-war novel Catch 22, in which Yossarian, who no longer wants to fly bombing missions, comes to ask for help from Doc Daneeca:

Yossarian would persuade McWatt to enter Doc Daneeka’s name on his flight log for training missions or trips to Rome.

“You know how it is,” Doc Daneeka had wheedled, with a sly, conspiratorial wink. “Why take chances when I don’t have to?”

“Sure,” Yossarian agreed.

“What difference does it make to anyone if I’m in the plane or not?”

“No difference.”

“Sure, that’s what I mean,” Doc Daneeka said. “A little grease is what makes this world go round. One hand washes the other. Know what I mean? You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”

Yossarian knew what he meant.

“That’s not what I meant,” Doc Daneeka said, as Yossarian began scratching his back. “I’m talking about co-operation. Favors. You do a favor for me, I’ll do one for you. Get it?

“Do one for me,” Yossarian requested.

“Not a chance,” Doc Daneeka answered.

The one request Doc Daneeka could not do for Yossarian is to declare Yossarian is crazy and therefore not fit for flying bomb throwing missions.

Because, of course, Catch 22, which stipulates that anyone who is crazy should be relieved of further bombing missions but which also stipulates that anyone who makes such a request is not crazy and therefore he had to keep flying them.

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind.”

Anyways, here are more media examples of favor, few favors and no favors at all.

1. favor:

Maybe Daniel Karp had seen too many episodes of “The Wire.”

In a recent court filing in defense of a Prince George’s County lawmaker, Karp proffers that asking for campaign contributions in exchange for votes is politics as usual. An everyday occurrence.

A politician’s request for campaign fund raising assistance or donations in exchange for a political favor or vote is similarly not unlawful or independently wrongful,” he wrote on behalf of County Council member Tony Knotts (D-Temple Hills). Knotts is a defendant in a lawsuit over a lease for county office space that alleges Knotts shook down the offices’ developer. In the end, the county never considered the lease.

“Unfortunately, it is something that occurs daily in the political arena,” Karp’s brief says.

“What? That’s absolutely wrong...That’s the definition of bribery,” said University of Maryland Law School professor Abraham Dash.

According to the state code, “A public employee may not demand or receive a bribe, fee, reward or testimonial to influence the performance of the official duties of the public employee or neglect or fail to perform the official duties of the public employee.”

Karp said that because this is a civil suit -- in which damages are being sought -- he simply is letting the court know that the case has no merit.

“My comment in the motion is if this occurred, it is something that happens in political life, but not illegal in the sense of giving rise to tort liability,” Karp said in an interview. The motion is “not an admission and it is not an apology. It is to address the specific allegations that have been raised. We don’t admit that they have occurred...I have no reason to believe anything occurred.”

Byron L. Warnken, a professor at the University of Baltimore Law School, said it isn’t a defense he would favor.

“It’s almost an admission that it happens all the time, and it does seem like what they are saying is, ‘It is not a big deal,’ ” Warnken said.

- Lawyer in Md. suit says political favors ‘not unlawful’, Washington Post, May 1, 2010.

2. few favors:

“I love chicks that have been intimate with IED’s,” he announced to his fellow soldiers sitting in the chow tent in Camp Falcon in Baghdad. “It really turns me on -- melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses.” The soldiers laughed so hard they almost fell from their chairs. They enjoy running over dogs in Bradley Fighting Vehicles, luring them in and then crushing their bones as they whelp. When a soldier comes upon a mass grave, he picks up a human skull, places it merrily on his head, and marches around. This is from the now-famous “Baghdad Diaries,” in the New Republic, carrying the byline of soldier-writer Scott Thomas. They are an attempt to capture the tragedy and dehumanization of war, how it coarsens men in ways that you, safe in your bed, cannot fathom. They are a lost generation, battered by war, and struggling, with the real weapons of war’s survivors -- mordant wit, pitiless humor, the final surrender to nihilism -- to survive in a world they never made. Do I overwrite? Do I sound like an idiot? I’m just trying to fit in.

To read the Thomas pieces was, simply, to doubt them. And to wonder if its editors had ever actually met a soldier on his way to or from Iraq, or talked to any human being involved in the modern military.

The diaries appear to be another case of journalistic fabulism. This week came word, via the published transcript of a telephone conversation between “Thomas,” who is actually Scott Thomas Beauchamp, and his editors. It is actually painful to read. The editors almost plead with him to stand by his work, after months of critics' picking them factually apart. He won’t do it. He doesn’t want to talk to “the media.” He’s said enough.


I’ll jump here, or lurch I suppose, to something I am concerned about that I think I am observing accurately. It has to do with what sometimes seems to me to be the limited lives that have been and are being lived by the rising generation of American professionals in the arts, journalism, academia and business. They have had good lives, happy lives, but there is a sense with some of them that they didn’t so much live it as view it. That they learned too much from media and not enough from life’s difficulties. That they saw much of what they know in a film or play and picked up all the memes and themes.

In terms of personal difficulties, they seem to have had less real-life experience, or rather different experiences, than their rougher predecessors. They grew up affluent in a city or suburb, cosseted in material terms, and generally directed toward academic and material success. Their lives seem to have been not crowded or fearful, but relatively peaceful, at least until September 2001, which was very hard.

But this new leadership class, those roughly 35 to 40, grew up in a time when media dominated all. They studied, they entered a top-tier college, and then on to Washington or New York or Los Angeles. But their knowledge, their experience, is necessarily circumscribed. Too much is abstract to them, or symbolic. The education establishment did them few favors. They didn’t have to read Dostoevsky, they had to read critiques and deconstruction of Dostoevsky.

I’m not sure it’s always good to grow up surrounded by stability, immersed in affluence, and having had it drummed into you that you are entitled to be a member of the next leadership class. To have this background in the modern era is to come from a ghetto, the luckiest ghetto in the world, a golden ghetto beyond whose walls it can be hard to see. There’s much to be said for suffering, for being on the outside or the bottom, for having to have fought yourself up and through. It can leave you grounded. It can give you real knowledge not only of the world and of other men but of yourself. In some ways it can leave you less cynical. (Not everything comes down to money.) And in some ways it leaves you just cynical enough.

Journalistically, I was lucky enough to work at CBS News when it was still shaped by the influence of the Murrow boys. They knew and taught that “everyone is entitled to his own opinions” -- and they had them – “but not his own facts.” And I miss the rough old boys and girls of the front page, who’d greet FDR with “Snappy suit, Mr. President,” who’d bribe the guard to tell them what the prisoner said on the way to the chair, and who were not rich and important but performed an extremely important social function.

They found out who, what, where, when, why. And they would have looked at the half-baked, overcooked junior Hemingway of Scott Thomas Beauchamp and said, “That sounds like a buncha hooey.”

- Apocalypse No, WSJ.com, October 27, 2007.

3. no favors:

A raft of conservative pundits and even one network anchor used the Sunday morning news shows to batter the Nobel committee for awarding President Obama the Peace Prize before he had a chance to turn his lofty rhetoric into historic accomplishments.

The decision, announced Friday, to award Obama the peace prize has drawn widespread astonishment. While past recipients like Al Gore praised the move, even Obama said upon learning of the award that he did not deserve it. “Surprised and deeply humbled,” he said he would nevertheless travel to Oslo in December to accept the honor.

But Bob Schieffer, host of CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said in his brief editorial commentary Sunday that the committee may have done Obama a disservice.

“I would guess no one at the White House was praying for the president to win the Nobel just yet, not because they're selfless humble souls whose only goal is to help humanity but because they are very good professional politicians who would know better than most of us that an undeserved accolade has a high probability of backfire,” he said. “I generally agree with the president’s approach on foreign policy, but the Nobel Committee did him no favors by giving him the award before he had anything to show for his efforts. ... What the Nobel Committee has managed to change -- and I am sorry to say it -- is the way we look on the prize.”

- Pundits Batter Nobel Committee for Awarding Obama Peace Prize, FoxNews.com, October 11, 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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(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)