Joined at the hip?

中国日报网 2013-06-25 10:49



Joined at the hip?Reader question:

Please explain this sentence:

Stocks and jobs are joined at the hip.

My comments:

This means there’s an intricate correlation between the performance of the stock market and that of the job market.

To wit, if the stock prices are high, the economy’s usually booming; and in a booming economy, usually a lot of new jobs are created.

Conversely, if stock prices tumble, the economy in general takes a hit; and in a economic slowdown, jobs are often lost as employers cut back on production.

So, therefore, stocks and jobs are “joined at the hip”, in the same way the two legs of us humans are joined at the hip. In other words, they’re inseparable.

The fact that our two legs meet at the hip should suffice to explain the expression “joined at the hip” but this idiom is understandably believed to have derived from Siamese twins, two people born to be conjoined at the hip (or any other body part). This, from

Chang and Eng Bunker (1811–1874) were a celebrated pair of conjoined twins and, being from Siam (as Thailand was then called), they are the source of the expression Siamese twins. The pair were internationally known in their day and their celebrity has led many to assume that the term ‘joined at the hip’ also originated with them. This seems unlikely as the Bunker brothers were joined at the sternum, not the hip.

The figurative use of the phrase is American and dates from as recently as the 1960s….

Alright. Oh, hold on a second. Figurative use of the phrase?

That means when the phrase is used to describe something metaphorically, i.e. not literally.

When “joined at the hip” are used to describe Siamese twins, for example, it is used literally (although not always accurately). When the phrase is used to describe the close relationship of two normal individuals, the meaning becomes figurative. For example, Peter and Paul are very thick. They go to school together. They play together. They do everything together. They’re joined at the hip.

When the phrase is used to describe two different things, such as is the case in our example (stocks and jobs), the meaning is, again, figurative. I remember watching years ago an HBO documentary on the life of Bobby Fischer and hearing this expression. In it, someone describes the former world chess champion – arguably the greatest player to ever set the pieces, so to speak – as saying to the effect that his genius and his mental illness, namely paranoia, are “joined at the hip”.


Namely you cannot deal with one without the other. In other words, his genius and paranoia (he thinks he’s watched by the CIA, which, if you understand what Edward Snowden is saying these days, might well have been true) – among other insufferable personality traits – are inseparable. It is, like, a situation of Jekyll and Hyde. Now he is Jekyll, happy, nice and sportsmanlike. Now he is Hyde, insecure, irritable, unruly, disrespectful and downright detestable.

But Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as you know, are one and same person.

In other words, you cannot have one without the other – one cannot appreciate Fischer’s genius without having to understand with the man’s troubled childhood and tumultuous life in general.

Alright, here are more media examples of “joined at the hip”:

1. In the economic universe, Japan seemed invincible and alone, blessedly sheltered from the ups and downs that bedevil the United States and other major powers.

It seemed so, that is, until a few weeks ago. A stumbling stock market and plunging yen have erased not only Japan's image of invincibility but could affect the U.S. economy in ways not widely recognized, analysts say.

“We are joined at the hip, whether we like it or not,” said Jack Rodman, managing partner at Kenneth Leventhal & Co., an accounting and real estate consulting concern.

Americans may feel the effects of Japan's financial turbulence in different ways: A weaker yen, for instance, creates new problems in curbing the U.S. trade deficit, even at a time of progress in trade talks with Japan. In the coming months, beleaguered Japanese investors may scale down their presence in the U.S. real estate market. Similarly, Tokyo-based banks may slow down their U.S. expansion plans.

And rising interest rates in Japan will create some pressure for higher U.S. rates.

“The people that are sitting back and saying, ‘This is great, the Japanese are starting to take some licks of their own,’ better start thinking about their adjustable-rate mortgage going up 50 bucks a month,” Rodman said.

- Joined At The Hip: Japan’s Vulnerability Affects U.S., Los Angeles Times, April 10, 1990.

2. Peter Mandelson yesterday buried the threat of a Blairite coup against Gordon Brown, declaring he was ‘joined at the hip’ to the Prime Minister, who would lead Labour into the next election.

He spoke as it emerged that Brown had been snubbed by Jon Cruddas, the left-wing standard bearer and former deputy leadership challenger, who yesterday rejected several offers of a government job. His decision to remain on the back benches has scuppered plans for a ‘unity government’ representing all strands of party thinking.

However, Mandelson’s intervention in effect confirms that the leadership ambitions of David Miliband are dead in the water, with Tony Blair’s inner circle rallying around the Prime Minister at a time of economic and political crisis. The new Business Secretary took the job only after gaining Blair’s approval for the move.

In an interview with The Observer, Mandelson insisted that he and Brown had ‘never entirely lost our friendship’ and said he had been at times ‘a bit combative, probably a bit prickly’, but suggested the past should be left behind.

Mandelson said he and the Prime Minister had ‘learnt lessons’ over their years of feuding. Warning that the government must get better at forging and selling new policies, he added: ‘I think all the cabinet share this view. And I think they also know what's been missing, and what has to be put in place.’…

Barely 24 hours after joining the government Mandelson was last night embroiled in his first row after being forced to deny claims he had ‘dripped pure poison’ about Brown in a private conversation with a senior Conservative. Weeks before rejoining the government he is said to have complained that Brown had left Labour vulnerable to the charge of creating a ‘culture of debt’.

The new Business Secretary insisted the allegations were 'baseless fiction' and Tory propaganda. However the reports will worry Labour MPs planning to raise concerns about Mandelson’s appointment when the Commons returns this week. In his interview Mandelson insisted his problems with the Brown camp were in the past. He said: ‘What’s important is what things are like now, and will be in the future. Certainly from here on in we’re joined at the hip.’

- Mandelson: ‘I’m joined at the hip with PM’, The Observer, October 5, 2008.

3. Today more than 1 in every 3 baby boomers — that huge glut of people born between 1948 and 1964 — is unmarried. And those unmarried boomers are disproportionately women. As this vast generation rushes into retirement, there’s a growing concern among experts on aging: Who will take care of all these people when they’re too old to care for themselves?

It’s a question many of the experts take personally. “That is what scares me,” says Sara Rix, who works for the AARP Public Policy Institute, studying the economic prospects of women in the workforce. “Because I am one of those people,” she says, “and I do think about it.”

“Oh, I’ve got wonderful nieces and nephews,” Rix says, noting that’s what a lot of her boomer peers claim, too. “Well, in fact, they’ve got their families. They’ve got their in-laws. They’ve got their parents. And I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect much out of them.”

Kathleen Kelly, who runs the Family Caregiver Alliance and the National Center on Caregiving in San Francisco, says she’s seeing the same sort of concern in her social circle. “I’m in my 50s, and my friends are all talking about, ‘Could we all move in together? Could we buy an apartment building and all live together?’ There are all sorts of permutations of this conversation,” Kelly says. “But it really is something that people are thinking about, particularly women.”

And, because boomers are boomers, some are doing more than just thinking about it. Already, there’s a small but apparently growing movement of boomer women forming group houses with their single peers.

One of those homes belongs to Bonnie Moore, a 60-something divorcee who lives in a well-kept, five-bedroom house in Bowie, Md., a cozy suburb of Washington, D.C.

To stay in her house after her divorce, Moore needed financial help. But she wanted to do more than just add boarders who would help pay the bills, she says. The home she’s organized instead is “a little bit like family, a little bit like roommates, a little bit like a sorority house,” she says from the sofa of her softly lit living room. “It just evolves.”

Moore, an attorney, isn't actually childless. She has a grown son who lives in Utah and has been urging Moore to move there to be closer to him and his family. “He’s just sort of saying, ‘Well, Mom you're old now; we have to take care of you,’” Moore says. “And I’m saying, ‘I’m not old. I’ve got 20 years out there in my yard, thank you very much’,” she says with a laugh.

Moore has been careful about selecting as housemates women who get along, but who also have a sense of independence. “All of us, we have our own separate lives,” she says. “We do our own separate things, but we’ll meet up in the kitchen and chitchat. And then we’ll all go our different ways, which makes it nice. None of us are joined at the hip, and yet we all live together and do our own thing and live in the same house.”

- Boomer Housemates Have More Fun,, May 22, 2013.

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Off color?

Go to Zhang Xin's column


About the author:

Zhang Xin(张欣) has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.



















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