Never really cut out for life in the battlefield?

中国日报网 2014-01-28 10:46



Never really cut out for life in the battlefield?

Reader question:

Please explain “cut out for life” in this sentence: He was an innocent teen who was never really cut out for life on the battlefield.

My comments:

“Cut out for life in the battlefield,” that is.

In other words, the boy was unfit for life as a soldier. He was too innocent for the hardships and cruelties involved in army life. Perhaps he shouldn’t have joined the army in the first place.

But I think you can say that just about any teen anywhere. I mean, who is suited really? Who is suited for life in the battlefield, where people kill other people they are ordered to? As Paul Simon used to sing in The Side of a Hill, soldiers don’t really know why they’re there for, except to kill – for causes even “the generals have long forgotten”.

There are just causes for war, for sure, such as all wars fought against the Japanese outside their own small islands, but seriously, all wars are terrible and unsuited for teens – or men and women of any age.

That’s my two cents worth on war and peace. Let’s re-focus on the question, “cut out for life in the battlefield”. “Cut out” is obviously a phrase from sewing. The tailor or designer, using knifes and scissors, cut out from a larger piece of cloth certain patterns. Then they sew the edges up to make a shirt or trousers, according to the original design.

According to design, obviously. If the cloth is cut out for a shirt, the sewer can never stitches them up into a pair of trousers however nifty their fingers are. Of course.

Hence, figuratively speaking, if something is described as “cut out for” something else, it is suited for that purpose. In our example, the innocent teen boy “was never really cut out for life on the battlefield.” He’s just unfit.

Again, no one really is. But never mind that now. Let’s read a few media examples of “cut out for”.

Oh, before the examples, here’s the lyric of The Side of a Hill, in case you’ve never listened to it.


On the side of a hill in a land called ‘Somewhere’

A little boy lies asleep in the earth

While down in the valley a cruel war rages

And people forget what a child’s life is worth


On the side of a hill, a little cloud weeps

And waters the grave with its silent tears

While a soldier cleans and polishes a gun

That ended a life at the age of seven years


And the war rages on in the land called ‘Somewhere’

And generals order their men to kill

And to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten

While the little cloud weeps on the side of a hill


Now, “cut out for” examples culled from the Internet:

1. By taking the heavy option, Mr Murdoch has fed the notion that something irresolvable has happened in the background. This was given a dose of rocket fuel by the BBC’s business editor, Robert Peston, who claimed in a tweet that “the undisclosed reasons for Murdoch divorcing Deng are jaw-dropping”.

Allegations of Ms Deng’s indiscretions have flown around for years, sometimes in such profusion and detail as to suggest a deliberate smear campaign. American newspapers have, from time to time, been contacted by an anonymous tipster using the Gotham City pseudonym Harvey Dent to identify supposed lovers from the worlds of politics, big business or the movies.

The greater likelihood that Ms Deng was never really cut out for life as a Murdoch, and that as her husband has aged and his power has flowed in the direction of others – particularly his grown-up children by Anna – so things have become more difficult for his outsider wife.

- Rupert Murdoch’s third marriage was doomed from the start - ‘jaw-dropping’ events lead to couple’s divorce,, June 17, 2013.

2. As we saw in last week’s column, staying in business happens less often than going out of business. A business going out is one of the saddest things there is and among the most destructive. What can you do to help prevent this? Here are, in my mind, are 11 absolutes:

Your product/service can be put under contract. At least one year. Contracts provide a measure of predictability and a longer lead-time to adjust to trouble.

It is not a retail business. Are hot and then not. They can blow away simply because the population shifted or a competitor set up in a newer building near you or a construction project blocked customer traffic.

Before you open your business, succeed at outside sales work. Sales work is very similar to operating a business but still using someone else’s money. Try commission sales work – straight commission if you can. Succeeding at this will go a long way to showing if you are cut out for business ownership or not.

Don’t have partners. Partnerships are like volcanoes. Eventually they erupt and spew hot stuff that melts everything. Partnerships begin out of need, not want. That is your first clue.

- How to Avoid Dreaded ‘Going Out of Business’ ,, January 24, 2014.

3. Second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda once said, “It is vital for youth to have the tenacity to become the very best at something.” Tenacity is crucial. You cannot make the gem inside your life shine with easygoing efforts.

It is important that you possess the inner strength and common sense to always have the spirit to learn everything you can where you are, to develop the means by which to support your life, to pursue substance rather than surface, and to explore the depths of your potential.

Mr. Toda once said the criteria for selecting a job could be found in “The Theory of Value,” a philosophical treatise by his mentor, founding Soka Gakkai president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi.

Mr. Makiguchi taught that there are three kinds of value: beauty, benefit and good. In the realm of employment, the value of beauty means to find a job you like; the value of benefit is to get a job that earns you a salary so that you are able to support your daily life; the value of good means to find a job that helps others and contributes to society.

Mr. Toda once said, “Everyone’s ideal is to get a job they like (beauty), that is financially secure (benefit), and where they can contribute to society (good).”

But not many people are able to find the perfect job for them from the start. For example, someone may have a job that they like, but it isn't putting food on the table, or their job pays well, but they hate it. That’s the way things go sometimes. Then there are some who discover that they’re just not cut out for the career they dreamt of and aspired to.

Mr. Toda said that the most important thing is to first become an indispensable person wherever you are. Instead of moaning over the fact that a job is different from what you'd like to be doing, he said, become a first-class individual at that job. This will open the path leading to the next phase in your life, during which you should also continue doing your best. Such continuous efforts will absolutely land you a job that you like, one that supports your life, and allows you to also contribute to society.

And then, when you look back later, you will be able to see all of your past efforts have become precious assets in your ideal field. You will realize that none of your efforts and hardships have been wasted.

A tree doesn’t grow strong and tall within one or two days. In the same way, a successful person doesn't get to where they are in only one or two years. This applies to everything.

- The Meaning of work,




About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He 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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(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑:陈丹妮)


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