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Find your feet?

[ 2011-08-09 16:33]     字号 [] [] []  
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Find your feet?

Reader question:

Please explain “find your feet” in this sentence: “I’m a big advocate of renting first, find your feet and then look to buy.”

My comments:

Here, the speaker advises caution on buying a house. If you’re new to the city, for example, you are advised to rent an apartment first in order to find your feet, that is, to get to know the local real estate market a bit before eventually deciding whether, or not, to buy a house of your own.

A good idea it is, isn’t it? With housing prices as high as they are, it is a good idea for young professionals to rent first, especially in big cities such as in here. I know quite a few young people fresh out of college and new to the work place who buy a house almost the first thing after getting a job in the office – using their parents’ money, of course, to pull off the purchase. I sympathize with the parents, but our more urgent concern here is whether their sons and daughters will ever be able to “find their feet”, figuratively speaking.

“Find one’s feet” is an idiom developed from observing children, infants to be exact, learn to stand on their feet and walk. Babies, before they learn to walk, crawl. Then, when they’ve gained enough muscle strength in the legs, they will struggle to stand up. They struggle to do that. They wobble and fall a few times before eventually getting a strong foothold.

That’s when they are described as finding their feet, meaning they have been able to master the situation and walk comfortably, gaining great confidence in themselves in the process.

Hence metaphorically speaking, if one finds one’s feet in, say, a new trade, they have gotten used to the business, gotten familiar with the ins and outs of it and are now comfortable in going about everyday work.

Like it is with children gaining the first foothold, they are now confident in their abilities and are raring to go, ready to take on the whole world.

In other words, they have established themselves. They have come into their own. They are now a force to be reckoned with.

Which is as it should be, of course.

But first, young people should work hard and smart and make some money, rent first and hopefully one day be able to buy a house with money earned by the sweat of their own eyebrows instead of their parents’.

In other words, don’t squander your parents’ lifelong saving in one fell swoop, just like that. Have mercy on your ma and pa.

Well, then again, it’s up to them and their dears. At the end of the day, when all is said and done and in the final analysis, what we’re concerned with is linguistics. And so, putting aside all idle talk, let’s see a few examples of people finding or not finding their feet here and there:

1. Faced with a new crisis, it stretches credibility to imagine Osborne invoking the spirit of Roosevelt’s New Deal, but that’s what’s needed, with a job guarantee for every young person. That investment would be every bit as cashable for the future as roads or railways, since the great social debt now accumulating will be more burdensome for future generations than mere financial debt. No one is counting the social deficit, the costly damage done to this generation of young people, though the evidence shows that a workless youth does life-long harm, some never finding their feet again, becoming the workless parents of the next generation.

- In this second wave of crisis, the pain has to be shared, Guardian.co.uk, August 5, 2011.

2. Journalists, in the BBC and elsewhere, have come to accept that where a big story is breaking, John Simpson will probably be there first.

In the competitive world of foreign affairs reporting, a nose for the right place at the right time is invaluable. John Simpson's remarkable gut instincts have drawn him into the thick of the action time and time again, and earned him scoops which are the envy of his colleagues.

His most recent, and most demanding, major foreign assignment saw him smuggled into Afghanistan as the Taleban fell, disguised as a woman.

He raised a few eyebrows, however, as he strode into Kabul through a cheering throng, declaring: “It was only BBC people who liberated this city. We got in ahead of Northern Alliance troops.” The BBC said later that “John was being ironic”.

John spent a rather lonely childhood, brought up by his father in London and Suffolk after his parents separated. He found his feet at Cambridge, where he edited Granta magazine.

He joined the BBC at 25, as a sub-editor in the Radio Newsroom, before becoming a political reporter. He attracted publicity early, when the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson apparently punched him in the stomach when John asked him whether he was about to call an election.

- On this day, John Simpson profile, BBC.co.uk.

3. Maria Sharapova looked anything but a potential champion in a torrid start against French teenager Caroline Garcia but found her feet and her fight to win 3-6 6-4 6-0 and reach the French Open third round today.

“I think I relaxed and just let things happen,” the relieved Russian former world number one said after romping through the last 11 games just when a major shock looked on the cards.

“I was way too concerned about the conditions and wasn’t moving my feet and just was really slow, and she was playing aggressive and hitting great shots.

“I just felt flat-footed in the beginning. I just hit the ball finally.”

The cool, gusty conditions played havoc with Sharapova’s trademark baseline power as she littered court Philippe Chatrier with errors during a terrible first half of the match.

She rarely ducks a scrap though and from trailing 6-3 4-1 against the 17-year-old she upped her tempo and began to hit her stride, reeling in her inexperienced opponent.

Sniffing an upset, the crowd turned up the volume midway through the second set but world number 188 Garcia, who was playing only her fourth match on the main tour, admitted the atmosphere got to her with a shock victory in sight.

“4-1, the Ola (Mexican wave), that was not easy to manage. I tried, but I didn't succeed,” she told reporters.

“I had many things going in my head, because I was leading. I was playing well. She was not really in the court. Then she reacted just like a champion, because she is a great champion.

“Then I started being very nervous, and I started playing more from the baseline and it was difficult to come back.”

- Sharapova shows fighting instinct, Reuters, May 27, 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.


Goodness knows?

Another false start?

Make the cut?

Rocket science

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)