High and dry?

中国日报网 2013-12-20 11:50



High and dry?

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: When her husband died, it kind of left her high and dry.

My comments:

You may infer her husband did not leave her a lot of money.

“High and dry”, you see, originally describes boats and ships stranded on the beach. They come onshore during a particularly high tide for instance. When the tide recedes, the boats and ships are found lying helplessly on the sea floor. “High” suggests its position is high. Dry? Waterless, of course.

In this situation, the boats and ships can do nothing but wait for the next high tide. In other words, nothing doing.

According to Phrases.org, this term was first used in a ‘Ship News’ column in The [London] Times, August 1796:

“The Russian frigate Archipelago, yesterday got aground below the Nore at high water, which; when the tide had ebbed, left her nearly high and dry.”

Helplessness, isolation and all-round dire discomfort are feelings we can imagine sailors having from that type of situation.

In our example, when the death of her husband is described as “kind of” leaving her “high and dry”, we can similarly imagine that life will be difficult for her from now on.

Suppose her husband did not leave her any money, suppose she had two children to now raise on her own, suppose she had no permanent job, etc. There are all sorts of difficulties for her to face and fend off from now on, and she has to do it alone. Anyways, “kind of” suggests that these surmises are probably not very far off. In other words, they may all be true, more or less.

In short, from stranded ships on the beach springs the term “high and dry” and it is now applicable in any situations where helplessness is keenly felt.

However, I’ve seen this term used in a positive tone, too. During a flood for example, people crowd themselves on a hill top and they might say something like, even though farmland is inundated, we are high and dry. That means lives are secure – at least people are all on “high and dry” land, not wet and submerged in water.

In that particular situation, being “high and dry” is a blessing.

Alright, here are more media examples of situations where people find themselves “high and dry”, for better or worse:

1. For the better part of three days, hundreds of York Mills Rd. apartment residents were left high and dry after a water main break cut service to four highrise buildings.

Water service to the apartments in two separate York Mills Rd. and Leslie St. complexes was restored Tuesday at about 7 p.m. following round-the-clock work by contracted pipe and drain crews.

The lack of water and the inconvenient trek with buckets and bottles to an adjacent building, whose water service was unaffected, angered many tenants.

“This is like living in Haiti. The Third World is here on York Mills,” one man shouted angrily Tuesday as he headed to the laundry room of a building on nearby Farmstead Rd. with two large plastic water bottles.

- Hundreds left without water, TheStar.com, February 03 2010.

2. Brisbane restaurateurs are down, but not out, with many continuing to open their inner-city businesses for trade despite the local flood disaster.

Queen Street Mall eateries and surrounding bars are trading as usual, however many surrounding retailers are closed, particularly in Albert, Mary, Margaret streets.

Fortitude Valley heavyweights Limes Rooftop Bar and Cloudland are open for business, as is Hamilton’s Baguette, Brett’s Wharf, Dandelion & Driftwood; all undamaged and fully operational.

George Street’s The Villager Hotel remains open today, one of the only CBD venues still operational and servicing remaining city dwellers. Thus far they are high and dry and accessible with fridges fully stocked and except to remain so over the coming days.

Also open in the CBD is Pig and Whistle, Milano and Jimmy’s On the Mall.

New Farm hasn’t fared so well, with Confit one of few restaurants to remain open in light of rising floodwaters.

- City restaurants remain open, City-News.WhereILive.com.au, January 13, 2011.

3. If you missed the Billy Ray Cyrus interview on “Piers Morgan Tonight” on Monday, you weren’t the only one.

Miley Cyrus’ dad bailed on his scheduled appearance on the CNN show after the MTV Video Music Awards, leaving the British TV host high and dry for the would-be in-depth interview about his daughter’s performance.

“Billy Ray was supposed to be on the show tonight to talk about his daughter’s performance, but ...” Morgan, 48, reportedly said on air — with only 15 minutes left in the show.

The “Achy Breaky Heart” singer’s cancellation came so late that the East Coast feeds of the show weren’t able to edit out Morgan’s teaser to the interview, according to E! News.

- Billy Ray Cyrus bails on Piers Morgan interview after Miley Cyrus’ VMAs performance, NYDailyNews.com, August 28, 2013.



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.


Herd mentality?

Twist their arms?

Dropping the ball?

Entrenched interests?

Blind spot?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑:陈丹妮)

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