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Wearing thin

[ 2011-08-23 13:04]     字号 [] [] []  
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Wearing thin

Reader question:

Please explain “wear thin” in this sentence: “As peacock population grows, their charm begins to wear thin.”

My comments:

The male peacock has its large ornamental tails to show off. And they’re beautiful to observe. To humans, those shiny colorful tails are ornamental, but to the birds they have a crucial function – to attract females. Pretty much like the high heels, bikinis and heavy makeup some women wear to attract the ogles of males.

For the first or first few times, at the very least.

First timers to see a peacock fanning its tail are bound to be mesmerized. But usually not for long. First, color dazzles. Then it blinds. When people get used to it, they, well, get use to it and no longer feels the same sensations of wonder and lust that they once felt at first. Same with tasty food. Too many tasty foods at once spoil the good feeling.

In other words, too much of a good thing.

Hence, “as peacock population grows, their charm begins to wear thin”, that is, to wither, like a flower and to wane, like the moon. All because people see too many of them too often. And as people often say, familiarity breeds contempt.

Wearing thin originally describes clothing getting old and worn. Wearing “thin” because due to overuse, the clothes become thinner at some places where there’s been much “wear and tear”. “Thin”, in other words, because the cloth is getting “threadbare”.

Hence, metaphorically, if something begins to wear thin, they’re less effective due to overuse. Clichés, for example, were all witty and inspiring remarks at first but become clichés after being repeated again and again.

Similarly, one’s patience may wear thin after a while. A good joke often wears thin after you hear it so many times. Excuses certainly wear thin pretty soon. The first time, for instance, that you tell your teacher that you have to miss class tomorrow because you have to attend the funeral of your grandma he’ll grant you the leave. Try telling him the same tale several times in a row and see if he still believes you.

Point is, got to have better excuses.

Joking. The real point, where excuses are concerned is no excuses are good enough. Ever. Give them up. Just don’t have them.

Alright, before we drift far off the topic, let’s return to examine media examples of things wearing thin:

1. Panic-stricken people have queued up at hospitals in the western Indian city of Pune to be tested for swine flu.

More than 1,000 people have gathered outside the two government hospitals designated to look after swine flu cases in the city.

Chemist shops are reporting a shortage of face masks.

Pune reported India's first swine flu death earlier this week - a 14-year-old school girl tested positive for the H1N1 virus and died in hospital.

Her family has now filed a criminal complaint against the hospital with the police.

Health ministry officials say there are more than 500 confirmed cases of the H1N1 flu strain across the country.

Anxious people with flu symptoms queued up outside health centres in Pune.

Almost all of them were wearing face masks.

One hospital had only 12 doctors to treat the 1,000 people who had gathered outside, the AFP news agency reported.

It said fights broke out as patience wore thin.

“I have been standing outside the hospital since four in the morning. No doctors have called me in for the tests,” one man told an Indian news channel.

The number of people going for tests increased after school girl Rida Shaikh died from the disease on Monday.

Her family has alleged negligence on the part of the doctors and the hospital where she was treated and have filed a complaint with the police.

The swine flu (H1N1) virus first emerged in Mexico in April and has since spread to at least 74 countries.

The virus is thought to have killed almost 800 people around the world.

- Swine flu panic grips Indian city, BBC.co.uk, August 6, 2009.

2. When Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt gives the MacTaggart lecture to an audience of television executives in Edinburgh on Friday, the first person from outside the broadcasting sector to do so, he will deliver a positive message: “Google needs you”.

Schmidt is expected to tell delegates that Google wants to help the industry realize a bright future. That is a striking change from the company's uncompromising stance in the past, when it was fighting legal actions from broadcasters and film studios over alleged copyright infringement.

It would be surprising if Schmidt didn't arrive at the industry's most prestigious gathering armed with a few conciliatory words, but his message is heartfelt, sources close to the company insist. Chatter about Google’s most talked-about projects, including mapping the world’s streets and digitizing every book, can disguise the fact they are driven by commercial necessity rather than corporate altruism. Despite its status as an internet giant with annual revenues of just under $30bn (£18bn) and an 85% share of the search market, Google needs content creators in order to thrive.

Good content drives search, and search drives advertising. The more compelling the content there is online, the more money Google makes. In Schmidt's view, that makes Google and the TV industry potential partners and, in the right circumstances, natural collaborators.

The contents of Schmidt’s speech are a closely guarded secret. But a headline-grabbing initiative – perhaps a Google programming fund that production companies could bid for? – may help recalibrate the relationship between the IT nerds from Mountain View, California and the creatives from Soho and Salford.

Several years ago, that prospect would have seemed remote. Broadcasters watched with frustration as Google-owned YouTube generated traffic by allowing users to post clips from hit shows, while Google allowed others to find pirated material available elsewhere on the internet. Google’s retort to content providers who complained – that they should be grateful some of that traffic was being redirected to their own websites – was starting to wear thin.

- ‘Google needs television industry’ will be message at Edinburgh, Guardian.co.uk, August 21, 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.


The hard way

Call their bluff?

Find your feet?

Goodness knows?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)