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Raised eyebrows?

[ 2011-05-24 14:34]     字号 [] [] []  
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Raised eyebrows?

Reader question:

Please explain “raised eyebrows” in this sentence: Charlie Sheen has been getting a pretty bad rap lately, his unique life-style has earned him plenty of raised eyebrows and some admirers.

My comments:

Here, the “raised eyebrows” refer to people who disapprove of Sheen’s behavior, i.e. people who react with raised eyebrows.

Put another way, Sheen, the American sit-com star, has raised many eyebrows with his “unique life-style”.

Other people admire him for the same reason (that he’s unique) but “raised eyebrows” is the facial expression we’re concerned with here.

And facial expression it is, too. You see, whenever we hear something unusual, our eyebrows rise (curl up). Often involuntarily, raising eyebrows is our natural physical reaction to shocking events. It means, like, am I hearing this right? Are you sure? Is it possible?

Linguistically, therefore, this expression is often used when one hears or sees something that’s surprising or shocking to them, especially when it comes to something they disapprove of.

Yes, that’s the thing to remember. If something raises eyebrows, it usually causes distaste. In other words, people don’t like it.

There are many examples. The Web is in fact replete with people whose behaviors raise eyebrows with other people. And so without further ado, let’s examine some:

1. Dame Elizabeth Taylor, the queen of Hollywood weddings, passed away on March 23rd, 2011. From movies such as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? alongside one of her husbands, actor Richard Burton, and National Velvet with costar actress Angela Landsbury, the motion picture icon raised a few eye brows each time she would get involved in a new marriage.

When Liz married her 7th husband, Larry Fortensky, rumors swirled in the media that he had married the Hollywood star merely to get her money. Was this true? What is Fortensky saying now that Elizabeth Taylor has passed?

The late Elizabeth Taylor and former husband Larry Fortensky met while in the Betty Ford Rehab clinic in 1988 – a popular place for Hollywood celebrities to confront substance abuse and addiction struggles. In a Daily Mail article, he shared his true feelings regarding his former Hollywood marriage with the Queen of Hollywood marriages, how they got along, and what he really felt about the media and family members saying he was a gold-digger after their wedding ceremony.

- Celebrity Couples: Larry Fortensky sick of Liz Taylor even after death? GreenCelebrity.net, April 28, 2011.

2. Yoko Ono, widow of Beatles member John Lennon, raised a few eye brows by telling Sky News that the band’s library is coming to the iTunes Store. EMI, however, was quick to counter her comments and clarify that the Fab Four’s library will come to iTunes, just not on September 9.

A Sky News story that quickly disappeared stated “The whole of the Beatles back catalogue will be made available to buy on iTunes, Yoko Ono has told Sky News.”

The article apparently didn’t include a specific date, but that didn’t stop people from assuming the band’s library would be included in Apple’s announcements during its special press conference scheduled for Wednesday morning.

EMI representatives, however, made it clear that the band’s works won't be appearing at the iTunes Store just quite yet, according to the Financial Times. “Conversations between Apple and EMI are ongoing and we look forward to the day when we can make the music available digitally. But it's not tomorrow,” EMI global catalog president, Ernesto Schmitt, commented.

EMI’s big concern right now is that the band's works might be pirated and that it could be held liable by the group members.

“If one [EMI] employee decides to take it home and wap it on to the Internet, we would have the right to say, ‘Now you recompense us for that.’ And they’re scared of that,” band member Paul McCartney said.

- Yoko: Beatles coming to iTunes, MacObserver.com, September 9, 2008.

3. Last Sunday France awoke to the news that Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund and leading light of the Socialist party, had been arrested on board a plane and charged with sexually assaulting and attempting to rape a chambermaid in his room at a Sofitel in New York. He denied the allegations “with the greatest of firmness”. For the world, it was shocking enough; for much of Paris, it was insupportable – especially after pictures emerged of Strauss-Kahn, unshaven and forlorn, handcuffed in court.

In the hours and days that followed the arrest, a string of friends and Socialist allies stepped forward to defend a man they insisted could not have done such a thing. Jean-François Kahn, a well-known journalist, said he was “practically certain” that what had taken place had not been an attempted rape, but “an imprudence... the skirt-lifting of a domestic”. Jack Lang, a former Socialist culture minister, wondered why, when “no man had died”, Strauss-Kahn had not been released on bail immediately. Philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, meanwhile, raged against a legal system that had treated DSK like “any other person”. “Everybody,” declared the philosopher, “is not everybody!”

Away from the cameras, much of the French public seemed to have sought solace in the belief – held by almost two-thirds of the population, according to a poll – that the entire affair was a set-up. And also in humour: social networks were awash with jokes, while a sketch on France Inter, the equivalent of BBC Radio 4, consisted of a male comedian imagining Strauss-Kahn’s internal dialogue moments before the alleged attack. “Put away the merguez [sausage], mate,” said one voice. “Whip out the tools, mate,” countered another.

After several days of this, Osez le Féminisme decided enough was enough. In a powerful statement, it declared that the way in which the chambermaid's account had been dismissed showed how difficult it was for victims of sexual assault to come forward. The levity with which her allegations were treated by some, it added, showed “to what extent violence against women is still underestimated”. Of the estimated 75,000 women who are raped in France each year, it is said only 10% file an official complaint with the police.

In the pristine quarters of Paris, where a privileged elite work, dine and often sleep together, this machismo wears a sophisticated face. From the double life of François Mitterrand to the years of Jacques Chirac (“three minutes, shower included”, the rumour goes), France has long shrugged its shoulders at its leaders' private indiscretions. Moreover, say some, it has tacitly encouraged them. When asked in 2006 about her husband’s “passion for women”, Strauss-Kahn’s third wife, Anne Sinclair, told L’Express magazine: “I’m proud of it! It’s important for a politician to be able to seduce.”

The question of Strauss-Kahn's mode de séduction has now been pored over by the French media in minute detail, including the claim by Tristane Banon, a writer, that Strauss-Kahn had attempted to force her into sex, too, and a rather apologetic shrug from the all-knowing Paris elite. Strauss-Kahn vehemently denies Banon’s account.

Even last week, as the extent of DSK’s wandering eye became clear, the vast majority of French people remained convinced that the private sphere should remain off-limits to public scrutiny. Regurgitated reports of DSK’s alleged visits to an exclusive swingers’ club in central Paris, Les Chandelles, may have raised eyebrows in Britain, but in France they were merely a sign of an individual’s right to sexual freedom.

- How Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest awoke a dormant anger in the heart of France’s women, The Observer, May 22, 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.


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