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In a different league?

[ 2011-03-01 12:26]     字号 [] [] []  
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In a different league?Reader question:

In this sentence - Goodfellas was in a different league, all-time classic - what does “different league” mean?

My comments:

It means that Goodfellas, the gangster movie featuring Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci et al, is a much better movie than others in the save genre, i.e. other gangster movies.

In other words, it’s the best. It’s way better than average. It’s incomparable.

Or, to use another similar phrase, it’s not in the same league (as others). It’s in a class of its own.

Or, as well described in the example from the top, it’s an all-time classic.

That means when most movies are forgotten after you come out of the cinema and not mentioned or seen again, this movie is one for the ages. Generation after generation, people will keep watching it.

Alright, let’s get back to the phrase “different league”. A league, you see, can be any group of people with common goals, aims, or political beliefs. For example, I was once upon a time – a long time ago to be sure – a member of the Chinese Communist Youth League. And that means...

Well, that really is something difficult to explain ^_^. It’s a long story and at any rate by and large of no interest to most of my readers who are born in the 1980s or later and so I’ll stick with the original question of “different league” – a much easier one to tackle.

If you play or follow sports, for example, you’ll be able to get the hang of it easily. A sports league is a group of teams of players of similar age, ability who play regularly together. Amongst soccer leagues that the typical Chinese TV viewer follows are, for example, English Premier League, La Liga (Spanish Premier League), Bundesliga (German League) and, of course, the Chinese Premier League.

But the Chinese football league, of course, is not in the same league as the others. I don’t think it controversial to remark that the Chinese players are much inferior in quality.

Still, the Chinese media, dominated by officials who insist on praise rather than criticism, may sometimes find it necessary to re-work that statement and say that even though European football is in a different league from our own, ours is where the room for improvement is greatest.


Anyways, when you say something is in a different league from, or not in the same league as others, you mean to say they’re unparalleled in number, size, quality, etc. In other words, they’re much better than average, or worse.

Here are media examples for you:

1. not in the same league:

Plug in the words “India” and “superpower” into an Internet search engine and it’s happy to oblige - with 1.3 million hits. I confess that I did not check each one, but I suspect that almost all of these entries date from the last couple of years.

This is understandable. For the first time ever, India has posted four straight years of 8 percent growth; since it cracked open its economy in 1991, it has averaged growth of 6 percent a year - not in the same league as China, but twice the derisory “Hindu rate of growth” that had marked the first 45 years of independence.

India has gone nuclear, and even gotten the United States to accept that status. Its movies are crossing over to become international hits. The recent $11.3 billion takeover of Corus by Mumbai-based Tata Steel was the biggest acquisition ever by an Indian firm.

No wonder the idea of India as the next superpower is fast becoming conventional wisdom. “Our Time is Now,” asserts The Times of India. And in an October survey by the Chicago Council on World Affairs, Indians said they saw their country as the second most influential in the world.

Sorry: India is not a superpower, and in fact, that is probably the wrong ambition for it, anyway. Why?

- India the superpower? Think again, CNN.com, February 9 2007.

2. in a different league:

PROOF of mass murder could lie in a genteel enclave of west-central Tokyo. It took over four years for the government to remove an inhabited block of flats so that the search for the truth might start. But on February 21st two diggers began scooping up and gently winnowing the ground in search of human remains. Barely a word about it has appeared in the national press.

Japanese journalists do not usually shy away from a murder mystery. But this one is in a different league. The site might be a link to one of the most atrocious sets of crimes Japan committed during the second world war. It involved medics in Unit 731, a covert body in the Japanese imperial army charged with developing techniques of chemical and biological warfare. The medics carried out experiments on humans, including vivisection without anaesthetic. Some later rose to the top of Japan’s post-war medical establishment, abetted by occupying American forces.

The excavations stem from testimony given to the government in 2006 by Toyo Ishii, a former nurse at a nearby army medical school during the war. There she often encountered doctors working on pickled human remains. She said she did not know what they were doing. As the Americans approached in 1945, she and her colleagues were hastily ordered to get rid of the body parts. Human remains, she said, were buried on the site where the diggers are now working. Ms Ishii says she saw a dog run off with a human bone.

It is no secret that the medical school was the Tokyo headquarters of Unit 731. Most of the unit’s activities took place in occupied Manchuria, in north-east China, where the victims of its ghastly experiments were Chinese, Koreans and Russians. They were exposed to plague and cholera. Those who suffered vivisection, including women made pregnant by the doctors, were called “lumber”.

- Digging up Japan's past: An investigation into wartime atrocities, but the media keeps strangely quiet, Economist.com, February 24, 2011.



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.


King of bling

Par for the course?

Under the thumb?

He did himself few favors?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)