English 中文网 漫画网 爱新闻iNews 翻译论坛
当前位置: Language Tips > Zhang Xin

Stuck in a rut?

[ 2011-12-23 13:56]     字号 [] [] []  
免费订阅30天China Daily双语新闻手机报:移动用户编辑短信CD至106580009009

Stuck in a rut?

Reader question:

Please explain “stuck in a rut”, as in this sentence: he felt like he was stuck in a rut, and just going through life and not living life.

My comments:

Here his life is likened to a wagon which travels in the same track day after day. It suggests that his life is routine but boring. He’s going through the motions, doing things by habit rather than, say, interest. In short, his life is not very exciting.

The rut, you see, refers originally to the deep narrow track on the muddy road. Folks in the city are no longer familiar with what was called the rut roads, roads with deep ruts left in the soft ground by a wheel. Folks in the city are instead familiar with the paved roads which are smooth and even, the occasional pot holes notwithstanding. In the remote countryside, however, muddy roads still dominate and there, after the rain, the ground is softened and vehicles, or heavy wagons with thick tires pulled by horses preferably leave deep tracks behind them.

These tracks are called ruts. A few days later, with the rain long gone and the earth dried up, the ruts are retained and vehicles continue to travel along these rutted lines. For one thing it is easy to go down the beaten track. For another, if your wagon or vehicle is small, it’s difficult for it to get out of the rut once it got stuck in it, stuck meaning fixed in a particular position and impossible to move (as in: “she tried to open the window but it was stuck”, or: “the bus got stuck in the snow”).

Hence, you see, if someone’s life is described as stuck in the rut, it means they’re doing the same things over and over again, as though they’re travelling down the same road all the time. In other words, their life is humdrum, routine and predictable.

And not very exciting.

Of course, and you can also say that their thinking is rutted, i.e. they keep having the same thoughts over and over again. In other words, they’re bereft of fresh ideas.

On the opposite spectrum, we sometimes refer to people with original ideas as unrutted, meaning they’re unfettered, radical and unconventional.

The unrutted person, for example, will travel a different road for example in order to avoid the rut, i.e. the same old same old. The unrutted new thinking, for example, of Mihail Gorbachev gave Soviet Russia perestroika, for better or worse.

This is an apt topic for today, I think, with Christmas coming up and another new year just around the corner. I think it would be timely and prudent to ask you: Have you had any fresh ideas for the new year?

Don’t fret. I’m just asking. Everything’s smooth and easy. Whether you have stimulatingly new ideas or not, I’m going to give you the same good wish….

As a matter of fact, I wish you all do.

Here, to break from our own routine of media examples, I’m going to share with you a poem. Here it is, The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.



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.


Can of worms?

The great leveler?

Slap on the wrist?

Voted with his feet?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)