A rough and tumble career

中国日报网 2013-08-27 13:13



A rough and tumble careerReader question:

Please explain “rough and tumble”, as in “a rough and tumble career in journalism”.

My comments:

Don’t often see a journalist’s career described as rough and tumble, but it is certainly appropriate. Makes a lot of sense to me, at least.

Rough, you see, is not smooth. A rough diamond, for instance, is one that’s not polished, with an uneven surface and rough (coarse and craggy) at the edges.

To tumble, on the other hand, is to fall over, especially over and over like a gymnast. Well, when a gymnast tumbles, he does a series of summersaults and is total control. A CEO, who is late for a meeting, rushes to the door, trips over a banana skin and tumbles to the floor – that’s more like it.

Picture a scene in a kindergarten room where a group of babies and kids are frolicking on the carpet. The carpet, say, a Persian rug, is rough. The kids and babies are playing with, running into and fist fighting each other and are tumbling all over the place.

A poor attempt at giving an example, perhaps, but it is an attempt, and one that’s not far off the mark. After researching into the origin of “rough and tumble” as an idiom, you see, I found that this term was inspired from watching wrestlers trying to bundle opponents to the floor.

There are many styles of wrestling, each with strict rules governing tactics and strategy – what you can or cannot do (with your fists, head or shoulders, for instance). And among these is the free style, wherein a wrestler is allowed to do anything he wants. Anything goes, you know. Anything you want to do you can, so long as you can wrestle your opponent to the floor.

This is where “rough and tumble” comes from – rough signifying that this style of fighting is lax and unregulated, hence perhaps looking disorderly and scrappy, lacking discipline, finesse and refinement.

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer says this expression “originated in the late 1700s in boxing, where it referred to a fight without rules.”

That makes sense, too. America is too young to observe European style of wrestling of the olden days and therefore find it sensible to replace wrestling with boxing. Makes perfect sense.

It also makes sense to describe a journalist’s career as rough and tumble, i.e. highly disorganized and lacking the regularity and routine of the life of the ordinary folk.

The journalist travels a lot, for example. And if he/she covers breaking news, they’d be all over the place any time of the day or night. Meals don’t come at regular intervals, to begin with, as you can imagine. And even if they are copy editors who work in house, they have to man different shifts, during the morning, evening or late night.

The night shifts are especially killing. When they’re done with work, it’s almost dawn and, ironically, they’re not sleepy any more. They tried to dose off at work quite a few times but now, when they’re supped to be in bed, they’re wide awake.

Not a few copy editors are alcoholic and there is a reason. They say they have to drink themselves to sleep – during the day, that is. When everybody else is up and about, copy editors on the night shift have to force themselves to sleep.

And so, you see, the life of a journalist involves a lot of irregularities and ups and downs, and not just upside downs in terms of treating day as night and vice versa. Consider that they also have to face normal career issues such as promotions and demotions, getting moved to another job or city against their personal will, etc and so forth, a journalist’s career can indeed be, to use another expression, something of a rollercoaster ride.

Alright, here are media examples for us to gain a better feel for “rough and tumble”:

1. At first glance, Charlotte Goodman seems like your average 2-year-old girl.

The blonde-haired child loves Winnie the Pooh, lights up when she sees her little sister and loves dressing up. What few people would know is that under her frilly clothes is Charlotte’s port, and inside her small body are daily doses of chemotherapy.

Charlotte is living with cancer and fighting for her life.

“When she first started showing signs, I Googled the symptoms, and every time leukemia came up I really didn’t think there was any chance that that’s what it was,” said Charlotte’s mother, April Jackson-Goodman. “But we’re here now, we have her and we’re going to figure the rest out when it comes.”

Charlotte was diagnosed with leukemia at just 20 months.

“She is such a rough-and-tumble kid, I never thought of her as someone who would be sick,” Jackson-Goodman said.

- ‘Rough-and-tumble’ girl wages war against leukemia, NWFDailyNews.com, February 18, 2013.

2. First-term Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas on Tuesday staunchly defended his aggressive, in-your-face style that already is raising eyebrows in Washington and has led a Senate Democrat to suggest his tactics reminded her of McCarthyism.

“Washington has a long tradition of trying to hurl insults to silence those who they don’t like what they're saying,” Cruz told reporters on a visit to a Texas gun manufacturer. “I have to admit I find it amusing that those in Washington are puzzled when someone actually does what they said they would do.”

Employees at LaRue Tactical near Austin cheered the senator enthusiastically during his appearance.

Cruz, 42, raised eyebrows in Washington by aggressively criticizing former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama’s nominee for defense secretary, during a Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing.

Cruz angered lawmakers in both parties by suggesting, without giving evidence, that Hagel might have taken money from countries such as communist North Korea.

In comments published in the New York Times on Saturday, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California compared Cruz’s accusations about Hagel to those made by former Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s in his hunt for communists.

“It was really reminiscent of a different time and place, when you said, ‘I have here in my pocket a speech you made on such and such a date,’ and of course, nothing was in the pocket,” Boxer said, according to the Times. “It was reminiscent of some bad times.”

On Tuesday, Cruz said he worried that his concerns about Hagel - such as what he sees as Hagel’s refusal to answer certain questions about financial disclosure - were getting lost in the focus on Cruz's style.

“Washington is a rough-and-tumble place, and I certainly don’t mind if some will take shots at me,” said Cruz, who has been unusually assertive for a freshman senator. “What I do think is unfortunate is if the coverage of the political game overshadows the substance.”

- Republican Senator Cruz defends style a Democrat likened to McCarthyism, Townhall.com, February 19, 2013.

3. Hockey is a rough-and-tumble game. No one is denying that and as Canadians anticipate another hockey season, most accept and even cheer the hits that separate hockey from other sports where body contact is avoided.

But hockey has devolved into an often ugly spectacle of fist fights and dirty hits intended to knock opposing players out of the game.

In a growing number of cases, those hits to the head, whether checking or punching, and hits from behind are so violent they injure.

Concussions are a growing problem in the NHL while minor leaguers and young fans watch to mimic their professional heroes.

Sadly, the NHL front office and most team owners seem content to feed fan frenzy for violence. If more people pay for expensive tickets to see the possibility of a brawl and other on-ice violence — as the men who run hockey largely believe — the bottom line takes precedence over player safety and the once good name of the game.

- No end in sight to hockey violence, ChronicleJournal.com, August 25, 2013.

Related stories:

Through the revolving door?

Keep his counsel?

Halo effect?

Throwing them a bone?

Smoking gun evidence?

Political horse trading

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: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


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