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Stepping up to the plate?

[ 2011-09-06 12:37]     字号 [] [] []  
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Stepping up to the plate?

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: “He said, ‘It is time for you to step up to the plate and make a decision’.”

My comments:

In other words, what’s to do next is up to you. The decision is yours, plus the responsibility that comes along with it.

It’s time for you to make something happen. Time for you to take a central role. Time for you to be in the spotlight, and, hopefully, to shine.

Anyways, “step up to the plate” is the phrase troubling us here.

This is a useful American expression that originates from the great American sport of baseball. The plate refers to the home plate, or the home base, a marked out square in which a batter stands ready to hit the ball thrown at him from a pitcher who stands in the middle of the playing area.

In the game of baseball, of course, every player gets a chance to bat the ball (so long, of course, as your team continues coring – by, after running around the playing area, returning to touch the home plate before defenders bring the ball back; if the ball returns to the defender standing on the home plate first, you’re out). That’s when they emerge from the seating area and walk up to the home plate.

At the plate batting the ball, you have a chance to hit a home run (by hitting the ball so hard that it travels all the way to the spectator’s stands) and earn a point for yourself and each of your teammates who have already stationed themselves on the first, second and third bases. Or at least you can hit a safe ball to enable you to run to the first base (or others to run to the next) before the ball is picked up by a defender and retuned to one of the bases first – if it’s returned to the first base before you do, you’re out; second and third bases likewise.

Anyways, at the plate batting the ball is your chance to do something for your team. All eyes are upon you to deliver and make something happen, hopefully something wonderful.

Hence therefore, to step up to the plate also suggests great responsibility.

Stepping UP (instead of DOWN) implies exactly that – that you’re able to rise to the occasion.

Rise to the occasion?

Or rise to the challenge, to have the courage and ability to deal with the difficult situation successfully.

In other words, you won’t quit or, worse, faint.

Alright, let’s examine media examples of situations where people have occasion to “step up to the plate” and get the job done.

1. You were talking about utility rates being bad for poor people, the same thing goes on with the insurance rates charged to the working poor. It is a known fact that insurance companies don’t want to insure the working poor. Most of them have a rate system that is against the poor working people in favor of the wealthier middle class and rich families. You need to check in to this and write an article in regard to this subject. It is time for somebody to step up to the plate and address this issue.

- Letters to the WSWS, WSWS.org, July 20, 2002.

2. Mark Serwotka, 48, general secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union

Serwotka spent the first six months of his life in a Catholic orphanage in Cardiff before being adopted by a Polish-British father and a Welsh mother. He joined the civil service at 16 as a benefits clerk, becoming a union member on his first day.

Is this an historic moment in union history?

We are at a crossroads, absolutely. The stakes are incredibly high in respect of whether the unions can step up to the plate and be seen to be relevant. If we’re not seen to be relevant, we may well see the union movement in steep decline. On the other hand, if we are seen to be relevant, we’ll grow significantly in terms of both numbers and influence.

- Inside the minds of our union bosses, The Observer, September 4, 2011.

3. Mr Clegg’s speech comes after sanctions were announced against Col Gaddafi’s family, including a freeze of assets and a travel ban.

He said: “Every day on our television screens, we are witnessing the courage of ordinary people taking to the streets to demand greater freedom.

“The countries of the European Union need to match their bravery and get behind this movement for change. They are creating a new world. We need a new response.

“What happens in North Africa impacts on every community in Europe. This is happening in our back yard.

“The EU, individual member states, businesses, and civil society - all of us need to step up to the plate - 2011 is certain to be a defining moment for North Africa, but it is a defining moment for Europe, too. I hope together we can rise to the challenge.”

- Europe must help Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, says Clegg, BBC.co.uk, March 2, 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.


Saving the day?

Trick question

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(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)