Written all over it?

2012-04-24 10:23



Written all over it?

Reader question:

What does this sentence – This book has ‘best seller’ written all over it – mean?

My comments:

It means that the book has the potential to become a best seller.

A best seller is a best selling book, i.e. one that sells the most copies in comparison to all other books on sale.

That’s best seller done and dealt with. But the bigger question for us to grapple with is the phrase “have something written all over it”. This expression means something shows a certain quality expressly, as though it’s written in broad letters on its face or over its surface.

A child, especially a baby, for instance, wear their innocent expressions on their face. When a baby first attempts to lie, for example, we often hear parents scold them thus: “That’s a lie. You have it written all over your face.” Babies being babies, they cannot hide their emotions. They may be learning to lie through the teeth for the first time but they haven’t mastered the art of deception just yet – their facial expression betrays them.

Don’t scold them too hard, though. Parents who treat their children too harshly run the risk of hardening their baby’s tender feelings – both toward you and, possibly, later, toward others. If you scold your child too much for some wrong doing and for not even being able to successfully lie about it, for example, he’ll turn around and train harder. Before you know, he’ll have honed his lying skills and will be pretending that he is not lying when he speaks to you a lot better before he finishes grade school.

And a lot of parents are dealing with that type of situation, I am sure.

Sorry for having not come up with a better example. But you get the gist.

You get the gist, I hope, of the expression. For a person to have a certain quality written all over his/her face is to have that quality or characteristic visibly and conspicuously shown on their face.

Likewise, when people say a certain new project has doom written all of it, they mean to say the project will not succeed, not at all because it has shown all the signs of failure to begin with and all along.

Alright, concrete media examples of people or things having something or other written all over them:

1. Q: Do you think Heat first game will be Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon? -- Jeffrey.

A: If it’s against the Knicks, that has ABC on Sunday afternoon written all over it on back-to-back weekends.

- ASK IRA: Do coaches have an obligation to play stars? Sun-Sentinel.com, April 23, 2012.

2. All Canadians will pay the price for a federal budget that will result in significant job losses, weaker environmental protection, and unnecessary cuts to cherished public services, says the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The CCPA says once the government’s three rounds of spending cuts are fully implemented, they will have resulted in a total of over 70,000 full-time job cuts (35,000 in the public sector and 37,000 in the private sector) and could raise the unemployment rate to 7.8%.

This may be a 2012 budget but it’s got the 1930s written all over it,” says CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald. “Federal austerity, combined with provincial austerity budgets, will create a fiscal drag on Canada’s economy.

“We are dismantling public programs and peeling back income supports such as Old Age Security without asking profitable corporations and the wealthy among us to do their part. We saw a similar story unfold in the 1930s and it didn’t end well. History is repeating itself.”

- Federal budget drags Canada into age of austerity: Think tank, Yahoo.com, March 29, 2012.

3. Poaching is a word you’ll often hear restaurateurs using - and they don’t use it in connection with eggs. When they utter the word, it has a sense of impending doom written all over it, and there’s a good reason for us, as consumers, to get worried about this phenomenon afflicting our mushrooming restaurant sector.

Delhi has seen a phenomenal growth in restaurants - and we have been applauding this fact - in the last couple of years, but this unprecedented expansion seems to be hurting them where they can least afford to be seen with a jelly belly: at the front of the house.

In the past, a restaurant used to be synonymous with the maitre d’ and one’s favourite waiter, because dining out is not only about eating, but about feeling like a king. There’s got to be a waiter in your restaurant who knows you personally and makes you feel that you own the place.

My favourite story is the one about a waiter who has seen me coming to the Golden Dragon at Vasant Vihar for the last 35 years - he has seen me grow up and he has turned grey, he insists on calling me baba, and delights my sons with stories of my callow youth.

With his funny stories, he has made sure Golden Dragon will have a third generation of loyal customers. I am certain when the boys go on their first dates, he’ll entertain their girlfriends with his fund of stories about the chhota babas.

That’s old-world restaurant service for you, the kind you’ll get only at the Connaught Place veterans or in the aging establishments of the old South Delhi.

It is personal, affable, yet not obtrusive. I know of old-world waiters who know exactly what their guests want when they say, “Get me that thing I had last time and I liked very much.” That culture, though, may not last for long.

The problem with the new restaurants is that there are too many of them vying for a shrinking talent pool. The demand-supply gap is especially telling in the service department, for you can find good cooks in Delhi without much effort, thanks to our proximity to Uttarakhand, and also to the number of them in five-star hotels who want to break free. Getting a good waiter who doesn't trip on his words or fumble with the order is like extracting water out of stone.

Desperate restaurants poach talent without any let-up (watering holes thrive in this market because people under the influence are more generous with tips), which may be good for waiters (they keep flitting from one better-paying restaurant to the other), but bad for the culture of dining out (because the sense of continuity that used to glue customers to their favourite restaurants is disappearing slowly).

- Flitterati: Where are the good waiters? India Today, April 1, 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.


The penny has dropped

The straight and narrow?

Don’t wear it on your sleeve

Leaving it at that

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)

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