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Goodness knows?

[ 2011-08-05 14:20]     字号 [] [] []  
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Goodness knows?

Reader question:

Please explain “goodness knows” in this sentence: “Interest rates are low, material costs are down and goodness knows construction workers need the work.”

My comments:

In other words, everybody knows.

Goodness is a substitute word for God. “Goodness knows” means the same as “God knows”. This is largely an exclamation to express surprise or simply for emphasis.

To paraphrase the example at the top:

Interest rates are low, material costs are down and construction workers need the work – everybody knows that!

Depending on context “goodness knows” can mean the opposite – nobody knows. Many Chinese boys and girls, for example, hate sports and refuse to muck in on the sports field. Goodness knows why, but they do.

Anyways, “goodness” as replacement for “God” takes other forms too. Another most commonplace phrase, for example, is “for goodness’ sake”. That’s the same as “for God’s sake” or “for Christ’s sake”. To the average Chinese who’s not born and bred religious, of course, that means exactly the same as “for heaven’s sake”.

The reason why “goodness” replaces the word “God” is, I think, due to respect for the latter. If you’re religious, you, too, perhaps don’t want to hear the word “God” uttered pointlessly in every sentence, especially if it’s on the lips of non-believers.

That’s simply disrespectful. And so here we are.

Again, for the Chinese learner, it’s safe to know that whenever it’s appropriate to use “God knows”, you can say “heaven knows”.

Likewise you can say “Good heavens” instead of “Good God”. Every time.

Oops. Heavens, I think we’ve been talking too much about God. For goodness’ sake, let’s move swiftly on to media examples:

1. The organisers of the original Boston Tea Party objected to paying UK taxes. Their descendants object to paying taxes to the US government as well. Whatever the outcome of the frantic negotiations about the appropriate “ceiling” on the level of US government debt, the background to it has been beyond satire.

The absurdity of it all was well captured by the economist Paul Krugman when he wrote recently that Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives’ budget committee, had “proposed a supposed deficit-reduction plan that included huge tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, then received an award for fiscal responsibility”.

In the short term the US economy, in common with the UK and others, is experiencing a shortfall of demand, so that businesses are operating way below capacity and unemployment is disturbingly high. The last things an economy in such a position needs are tax increases and public spending cuts. It has to be emphasised that measures to reduce deficits, if introduced prematurely, can be irresponsible, for all the talk of fiscal “responsibility”….

Businessmen will always go on about red tape, planning constraints, labour laws and other irritants, with a ready audience in Conservative governments or coalitions dominated by the Conservative party. Such complaints are not necessarily without foundation. But the big constraint on sales, recruitment and investment is lack of demand, now or in the future. And the deliberate cultivation of an atmosphere of austerity turns out, predictably, to have aggravated the recessionary tendencies that were already apparent.

Keynes talked about the importance of “animal spirits” among the entrepreneurial class. But he also taught that the worst thing a government could do, when capitalist economies demonstrate their propensity to follow a boom with a bust, was to impose further downward pressure.

Developments in both the US and the eurozone do not present a pretty picture. The G20’s action in 2009 to ward off a 1930s-style Depression undoubtedly limited the damage. But the policy challenges facing finance ministers and central bank governors at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund in September are formidable. And goodness knows what we will face if the Tea Party has its way this week.

- Tea Party economics could get the whole world in a stew, The Observer, July 31, 2011.

2. Five months after he became the last person living in Detroit, Jimmy ‘Sweetpea’ Jameson has finally left the city, leaving it unoccupied for the first time since the Potawatomi Indians temporarily abandoned it in 1623.

“I can’t get mail service anymore and they turned the lights out in May, so what’s the point of staying?” Jameson, 42, told The Peoples News as he crossed 8 Mile—Detroit’s northern border—to live with a cousin in Oak Park.

Jameson, who makes a living selling his blood, left the city after the results of a nationwide standardized test were announced. Some 69 percent of Detroit’s 4th graders and 77 percent of 8th graders scored below basic, meaning they were unable to perform even the simplest skills.

However, Jameson revealed that he took all 7,827 tests.

“I can’t add to save my life,” he said. “And do long division? You must be out your mind.”

Jameson lived in a 12-bedroom home on John R Boulevard, and scavenged food from abandoned supermarkets. He wandered the city and every couple days, stopped by different schools. In October, he began seeing tests piled at the front of each school.

“I don’t think anyone realize no one actually attends school in Detroit anymore,” he said. “Goodness knows that with scores like that, how could anyone think students were actually learning anything here?”

This isn’t the first time Detroit has been abandoned. The Potawatomi hunted in the area—which they called Dekissimotroit or ‘The Land of No White People’—for generations before leaving.

“The schools were awful, people were always firing arrows willy-nilly on New Year’s Eve, and enemy tribes would sneak in on Devil’s Night and set fire to the tepees,” said Detroit historian Melinda Dolittle. “It was really an awful place to live.”

The city, which had a population of about 930,000 as of May, cleared out following soul-sapping layoffs at Ford, GM and Chrysler and the Detroit Lions’ season.

In November, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm tried selling the land back to the French, who founded Detroit in 1701. But the prickly country said ‘no refunds’ because Granholm didn’t have a receipt.

“You break it, you buy it,” sniffed French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Just before Jameson’s exit, President Obama signed legislation turning Detroit into a national park. Already, grizzly bears, elk, coyotes and wolves have been spotted roaming the quiet streets. Lions were also allowed in, but they were quickly killed by the bears, rams, cardinals, dolphins, falcons, really, anything that came up against them.

Jameson was wistful as he crossed over the threshold into the suburbs.

“I hope I can come back again some day,” he said before disappearing into a thicket of trees. “I will. The Detroit Lions will always suck, but the city will come back, you watch.”

Note: This article—except for the part about the test scores and, of course, the Detroit Lions—is satire, brought to you by the creative minds at The Peoples News.

- After Latest Test Results, Last Resident of Detroit Leaves the City, ThePeopleNewsOnline.com, December 22, 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)