Went to the grave with him?

2012-02-21 13:38



Went to the grave with him?

Reader question:

“The recipe went to the grave with him...” What does this mean?

My comments:

Are we talking about a cooking recipe here? Or a recipe for an elixir or something.

Whatever it is doesn’t matter. It’s now in the grave, buried deep with its owner. It will forever stay buried, never to be known again.

“Going to the grave”, you see, is a variation from the phrase “take something to the grave”. Mostly this phrase involves a secret of something or other, something you don’t want to ever tell anyone about, for if you take it to the grave with you, obviously it will die with you.

A secret love affair, for example. People take this to grave to avoid a scandal or to avoid hurting people. iPhones, too. I hear some people literally take their iPhones to the grave with them. They love their high-tech gadgets so much that they take them to the grave? Sounds equally scandalous to me.

I’m joking. I don’t really mind people taking their iPhones to the grave. It’s their gadget and, therefore, theirs to deal with.

Still, it sounds quite bizarre that people take their iPhones to sleep an eternity with. iPhones won’t last an eternity but that’s beside the point. Point is, this is just one more reason not to own a modern gadget. It may get you addicted, so addicted that you may think that even death will not do you apart.

Well, just beware and now let’s examine media examples, old as well as recent, of people taking secrets to the grave:

1. Recollecting a story Ho told her when she was a child, she had included one sentence in his obituary -- that her father confronted a gestapo to help a Jewish friend escape.

The one line sparked interests that led her to dig deeper into the story, researching and identifying survivors.

“It was a combination of luck and just persistence,” the 57-year-old former journalist told AFP about stumbling upon her father’s rescue efforts.

Had it not been sheer chance, it would have gone to the grave with him,” she said.

Ho was among the first of a small number of diplomatic rescuers who took “extraordinary steps at some personal risk to themselves” to safe the Jews, Gold said.

- Chinese diplomat who saved thousands during Holocaust honored, AFP, May 19, 2008.

2. Harry Houdini, the greatest escape artist of all time, has done it again!

This time from a dusty cardboard box in the back of a bedroom closet!

No restraint can hold him!

It might not measure up to his most thrilling feats, but considering that Houdini has been dead since 1926, this latest stunt as reported by the authorities yesterday had a lot of experienced conjurers marveling at their departed master.

“This is going to make news around the world,” Sidney Radner, a magician and renowned Houdini expert, said from his winter home in Palm Beach, Fla.

The Houdini in question is a polyethylene resin bust weighing 30 pounds and measuring about 30 inches tall. It had been keeping watch over Houdini’s family grave site on Cypress Hills Street in Glendale, Queens, when it mysteriously vanished on Aug. 15, 1983. The police reported then that it had been stolen, but for nearly 19 years the disappearance went unsolved.

Houdini artifacts of all types are larger than life in the magic world. The Queens graveyard where he is buried, Machpelah Cemetery, has been closed to the public for years because of thefts and vandalism to the Houdini plot. Busts of the Master Mystifier, as Houdini was known, are said to carry a particularly peculiar significance. In 1975 the original graveyard bust, carved from marble, was crushed into pieces with a sledgehammer.

The thinking is that he went to the grave with secrets in his head, so if I bust open the head, I will find the secrets,” said John Bohannon, who is chairman of the Houdini Committee, the group at the Society of American Magicians that looks after the grave site. The society twice replaced the original bust with cheaper copies, he said, but both replacements disappeared.

- With Police Help, a Bust of Houdini Reappears, The New York Times, March 10, 2002.

3. Like many Poles who survived the war, Ms Szymborska readily accepted communism in early life, seeing it as a salvation for a ruined world. Early poems praised Lenin and young communists building a steel works. Later she blamed her own “foolishness, naivety and perhaps intellectual laziness”, but some found it hard to forgive her for signing a petition in 1953 backing a show trial of four priests.

Her ironic and individualistic spirit was ill fitted to the grey conformity of “people’s Poland”: the Nobel citation said she wrote with the ease of Mozart and the fury of Beethoven. Playful, subtle and haunting, her poetry could never be in harmony with the socialist realist style dictated by the country’s cultural commissars. She mocked their intolerance of dissent in a poem on pornography:

There’s nothing more debauched than thinking.

This sort of wantonness runs wild like a wind-borne weed on a plot laid out for daisies.

Communism she likened to the abominable snowman—horrid and unreal—though she stayed in the party until 1966, hoping “to try to fix it all from the inside”. That, she said later, had been another delusion.

Ms Szymborska was 16 when Hitler and Stalin carved up Poland between them. “Old age was the privilege of rocks and trees,” she wrote. Although not a mainstream dissident, her poems distilled the essence of individual stubbornness in the face of what the party bosses said was historical inevitability.

I believe in the refusal to take part.

I believe in the ruined career.

I believe in the wasted years of work.

I believe in the secret taken to the grave.

These words soar for me beyond all rules without seeking support from actual examples.

My faith is strong, blind, and without foundation.

Scepticism was her watchword. She eschewed political causes; her fight was “against the bad poet who is prone to using too many words”. Her favourite phrase was “I don’t know”. She told the Nobel audience: “It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended.” Without it, she said, Isaac Newton would have gobbled apples rather than pondering the force that makes them drop. Her compatriot Marie Sklodowska-Curie would have “wound up teaching chemistry at some private high school for young ladies from good families.”

- Obituary: Wislawa Szymborska, Economist.com, February 11, 2012.



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.


Linmania: The perfect storm

Status quo?

Hot point?

Deepest pockets?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)



















关于我们 | 联系方式 | 招聘信息

Copyright by chinadaily.com.cn. All rights reserved. None of this material may be used for any commercial or public use. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. 版权声明:本网站所刊登的中国日报网英语点津内容,版权属中国日报网所有,未经协议授权,禁止下载使用。 欢迎愿意与本网站合作的单位或个人与我们联系。



Email: languagetips@chinadaily.com.cn