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Window dressing

[ 2011-06-10 16:27]     字号 [] [] []  
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Window dressing

Reader question:

Please explain “window dressing” in this headline: “Wall Street banks accused of window dressing debt.”

My comments:

When banks go window dressing, they, like women applying makeup, try to look better - by fudging figures so that numbers in the account book look better to the public eye.

In other words, they are cooking the books.

By window dressing debt, they are essentially hiding the debt, temporarily hiding it that is. For example, at the end of each financial quarter, when publicly listed banks have to report their balances (earnings and losses) to the public, they deliberately refrain from mentioning some debts, saving them for mentioning later, say, during the middle of the next quarter when a full set of figures are prepared - this time, though, the figures will not be revealed to the public. At the end of the next quarter, when banks are again required to reveal performance numbers, they again conceal some debt figures from the public view.

ANZ.com’s financial dictionary defines “window dressing” thus:

Arranging financial details, such as deposits, loans and portfolios, to give the best possible impression for balance-sheet purposes.

Anyways, the “window” in “window dressing” refers to the display window of shops and stores. This is the same “window” as in window shopping, when you inspect shop windows to see what’s on display, even though you have no intention (or money) to actually buy anything.

Window dressing refers to the act of arranging items on display in the shop window, dressing up (putting clothes on) mannequins for instance.

Needless to say, shops want to put their best items on display in order to attract customers. Hence, by extension and figuratively speaking, window dressing may refer to people doing things to just look better, whitewashing the walls of a house before putting it on sale, for example – it implies that the house owner is not being entirely honest with himself or his property.

Alright, here are media examples:

1. Arizona Sen. John McCain posted on Twitter today that “calling for GM CEO to resign is unprecedented window dressing.”

“GM needs restructuring as part of pre-negotiated bankruptcy package,” he added.

The 2008 Republican presidential nominee is referring to the Sunday resignation of General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, who was forced out by the White House in an effort to give the embattled auto company a “clean slate.”

Industry experts told CBS News that Wagoner is perceived to have been insufficiently willing to face off with the union and that the president is trying to send a message to the company to get serious about cost-cutting if it wants more taxpayer money.

At 11 AM, the president is expected to announce its plans for GM and Chrysler. A White House official said the administration has determined that the plans set forth by both companies do not lead to viability. GM is set to get operating money for a 60-day restructuring process, while Chrysler will get funding for 30 days to complete a deal with Fiat or another carmaker that could lead to another $6 billion in government money.

If the efforts don’t work out, both companies could be forced into bankruptcy by the summer.

The automakers have strenuously objected to being allowed to go into bankruptcy, out of fears that doing so would hurt sales because consumers won't buy cars – or warrantees – from a bankrupt company.

- McCain: GM CEO Ouster Is "Window Dressing", CBSNews.com, March 30, 2009.

2. The biggest game of LeBron James career awaits him Thursday. It’s the highest stakes (Game 5 of a deadlocked NBA Finals), the biggest stage (a global audience of surging ratings) and the most pressure (magnified by his listless, eight-point debacle in a Game 4 loss) he’s dealt with since bursting into the national consciousness as an Akron high schooler.

At some point in his life LeBron James tattooed “Chosen 1” across his body, so it’s not like a night like this, a moment like this and the demands of a game like this come as a surprise. This is what he has supposedly built his life toward.

Twenty-six years old, as talented of a basketball player as anyone has ever seen, and this is when the check comes due on all those millions, all those endorsements, all that fame and adulation he’s received.

This is no longer about promise or potential. This is the time to stand and deliver.

Two MVPs are nice. An Olympic gold is cool. Global icon is fun. Basketball legends are built through championships, however, and a player of James’ immense ability can’t continue to fade into the background during the lonely moments when the biggest games are determined.

He took just one shot in the fourth quarter of Game 4. One. He was a decoy, window dressing, watching as his team managed just 14 points. Meanwhile, he couldn’t contain Jason Terry on the other end of the court.

- LeBron faces most important game of his career, Yahoo!Sports, June 8, 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.


Take a backseat to nothing

Push comes to shove?

Cherry picking?

Jesus bird?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)