Down for the count?

中国日报网 2015-01-06 11:35



Down for the count?Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: “Modern day movies are down for the count – We have a KO! Classics win! Classics win!”

Down for the count? KO?


My comments:

Here the speaker uses boxing analogies to set up a scene in a match between modern-day movies and Hollywood classics. 

Result of the match? Classics won by a KO, or a knockout punch.

To wit, the speaker thinks classic Hollywood movies are much better than what’s on show currently in the theater near you. 

Or as the speaker metaphorically puts it, classics win by a knockout – decisively.

Knockout, of course, describes the situation where a boxer is knocked down to the floor and isn’t able to get up again.

In a real boxing match, you see, when a player is knocked down on the floor, or canvas, the referee steps in to take a count from “One!” to “Ten!” According to rules, if the boxer is able to stand up before the count to ten, then he’s allowed to continue to fight. If he’s unable to get back to his feet, then he loses the match, with victory going to the winner, who is described as winning by KO, knockout – meaning knocking his opponent out.

Actually, in most matches today, the rules are that he has to get back to his feet and demonstrably shows that he’s fully conscious before the count of “Eight!” instead of “Ten”.

Anyways, this sequence of dramatic events bring up a few boxing phrases that have been accepted into general language. And these include the KO, “down for the count”, “down and out” and, more encouragingly, “down but not out”.

We’ve explained KO. Now, “down for the count” literally means a player is knocked “down” on the canvas, waiting “for the count” by the referee. While the count is being taken, the boxer’s status is “down but not out”, i.e. in great difficulty but not totally defeated, having a chance of recovering. After the count, if the player fails to stand up, he’s officially declared as “out”, i.e. out of contention for good. In other words, game over. His status now is, “down and out”, totally defeated, having no chance of recovery.

In short, “down for the count” means a great setback whereas “KO” means total defeat.

That’s why in our example what the speaker essentially means to say is that classic Hollywood movies are much better than their contemporary counterparts.

I agree. I think classic movies are beyond compare. This is largely a sign of the times, to be sure. Times change, and people are into different things. Simple as that.

There’s a deeper reason, too, I believe. And that is, you see, life of yesteryear was much simpler than it is now. That is why stars of yesteryear were better at what they did. They got to concentrate. Today, life is too diverse and complex. There are too many distractions for anyone to focus on the job on hand, or several jobs on hand considering many pop stars are multi-talented, able to act, sing, dance.

To be fair, each generation has its own stars and those stars are good in their own ways. But, if you are old enough, if you are old enough to experience the thrills stars from different generations give, you’ll be able to really separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. That is, you’ll be able to tell who are better, today’s stars or those of generations past.

I think today’s stars simply pale in comparison. Take pop music, for example. Male and female, do we have anyone to rival Michael Jackson or Madonna of the 1980s and 90s?

Movies are likewise. Hollywood classics still retain their magic but today’s movies….

As for today’s movies, have you been to the movies lately?

I mean, at all?


Don’t get carried away, though. Let’s get back from nostalgia to reality and read a few media examples of situations where people or things fall “down for the count”:

1. Vancouver entrepreneurs are down for the count, suggests a new study.

This is in part because they face considerable challenges despite operating in a robust economy, says the study by Coach Kevin and the Canada Export Centre.

Almost half of the 100 entrepreneurs and business leaders surveyed said they are challenged to achieve revenue goals; more than one-third said finding top talent is a challenge; while only 21 per cent said their businesses are successful and they are enjoying life.

“One of the perceived benefits of being an entrepreneur is the ability to have more ownership over your professional and personal life, not less,” says professional business speaker Kevin Lawrence of Coach Kevin.

“Our findings clearly indicate that the majority of entrepreneurs are consumed - and overwhelmed - in 2006.”

- Survey shows Vancouver entrepreneurs feeling the heat,, November 8, 2006.

2. For anyone who thought MTV’s Video Music Awards were down for the count, no longer relevant to the network some accuse of forsaking the video format - think again.

Tonight's show is going to be a “one-of-a-kind, must-see, one-night-only event,” MTV President Christina Norman told the Daily News. It will air live at 9 p.m. from the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, featuring a huge array of performances.

Here’s how it's going to work. MTV is taking over the Palms, setting up in the Pearl Concert Theater, transforming the Rain nightclub to rock out and planting performers in decked-out suites in the Fantasy tower. “Foo Fighters have a suite, Fall Out Boy has a suite, Timbaland has a suite and Kanye’s going to have a suite,” said Norman. “And we’ve invited them to bring special guests, friends, and just jam in there all night. The best part about it is that the fans can visit the suites whenever they want to online.”

That means the bands will keeping rocking even when the main show’s cameras stop rolling.

- MTV brings Video Music Awards to Las Vegas,, September 9, 2007.

3. Conservatives face difficult times in today’s political world and ever-shifting culture, but they will live to fight another day, concluded four scholars at a book forum Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

At the event, “The ‘Right’ Books: The Past, Present, and Future of Conservatism,” authors Donald Critchlow, Jacob Heilbrunn, Mark Smith, and John Samples praised the lifetime work of conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr., who died last week, Feb. 27, at the age of 82.

Buckley had founded the influential conservative magazine National Review in 1955, wrote numerous books, and saw his twice-weekly column syndicated in at least 300 newspapers.

“Conservatives are in disarray, but they are not going anywhere for a while,” said Critchlow, a professor of history at Saint Louis University and editor of the Journal of Policy History. “Every time it has looked like they were down for the count they have been able to pull themselves off the mat and go on for another round,” he said.

- Conservatives Will Fight On, Scholars Say,, July 7, 2008.





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.



Out-of-the-box solutions?

Coming to a head?

A long shot?

Nature of the beast?

Caught up in the moment?

Power play?


(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑:刘明)




















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