Far cry?

中国日报网 2015-01-20 10:23



Far cry?Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: “It’s still a far cry from ideal, but a significant step in the right direction.” Far cry?

My comments:

It’s a significant step in the right direction, but still far from ideal.

In other words, we can save everybody a “cry” or two.

When we say something is a long distance away from being perfect, we say it’s far from perfect, or ideal.

Ideal, you see, is someone’s idea of a perfect situation. An ideal is essentially an idea, something in the mind. It’s what you think. It’s not reality.

It’s not something that exists in real world. In other words, it’s not real.

See the difference between the real world and the ideal world?

Yes, that’s it. The ideal world doesn’t exist.

Anyways, in our discussion, when the speaker says something is a far cry from ideal, he/she means to say the situation is still much different from what he/she has in the mind, how things will be able to work out perfectly and seamlessly – all smooth and easy, trouble free.

Still, the speaker acknowledges that a significant step is taken in the right direction, i.e. big improvements have been made, so therefore, not too much to complain about either.

The question we are concerned with is “far cry”. Why “far cry”, when “far” seems to work just as well?

Well, far cry is literally a cry from afar, a shout from a distance away. In the past, long before the telephone lines and mobile services were ever imagined to be even possible, people used their voices whenever possible. Whenever, that is, when they were within what is called shouting or crying distance.

And if you shout something out loud to someone from the distance, especially over sloping hills, what you say is likely to be distorted. You may say Michael, and the hearer may think you’re addressing Marlowe instead.

And Marlowe IS literally a far cry from Michael, isn’t it?

Anyways, that’s the meaning of far cry originally. Figuratively speaking, whenever we say nowadays something is a far cry from something else, we mean to say they’re very different, or distant, meaning the distance or separation between the two is great.

All clear?

All right. No more ado and let’s read a few real examples of this popular idiom:

1. What is it about Edinburgh right now? It seems to be a real hotbed of crime fiction talent and Tony Black is no exception. Another very fine author indeed and this, his second book, is simply superb. Black’s clever use of short, sharp sentences and tight punctuation makes the gritty, hard-core existence of Gus Drury, his main character, all the more real.

Set in Easter Road, Sighthill and other ‘non-pretty’ areas of Edinburgh, GUTTED is a captivating novel that exposes the city for what it really is: a far cry from its snobby, public school respectability and Greyfriar’s Bobby cuteness that are much loved by its tourists but really fool no-one.

GUTTED is the second novel in the Gus Drury series. To summarise, Gus finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when he goes up Corstorphine Hill to catch troublemakers involved in dog fights. Almost before he knows what has hit him, he is falling down the hill - and ends up landing on a corpse. The corpse is fresh and bloody and Gus, who calls the police pretty quickly, ends up both covered in blood and in the frame for murder.

- Black, Tony – ‘Gutted’, EuroCrime.co.uk, September 7, 2010.

2. Scientists were able to reconstruct the original colors of prehistoric insects.

It’s now known that prehistoric beetles sported vivid, metallic hues.

Color can leave behind structural and chemical evidence in fossils, permitting the reconstructions.

Fossils tend to offer a black and white view of the past, but new research on prehistoric beetles brings the insects' flashy metallic colors back to vivid life.

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, add to the growing body of evidence that non-avian dinosaurs, Dino Era birds, prehistoric fish, early insects, and more were literally very colorful creatures.

The colors within fossils may not always be visible to the naked eye. Researchers, however, are now able to reveal the long-lost hues by studying the structural and chemical bases of the individual's original color. Many beetle fossils do exhibit colors, but they are a far cry from the hotrod shades these insects once sported.

- Prehistoric Beetles Sported Hotrod Colors, Discovery.com, September 27, 2011.

3. Scarlett Johansson took on a new role this year – female action hero. In “Lucy,” she played a woman powerful enough to destroy the world and in the blockbuster Marvel Comics movies, she played Black Widow. Those roles were a far cry from what she’s doing in her real life - taking care of her new baby.

In an interview with Barbara Walters for the two-hour ABC News special, “Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2014,” Johansson, 30, talked about becoming a mother with her new husband, French creative director Romain Dauriac.

“It’s wonderful, and exhausting,” Johansson said of having a child. “The love is just unbelievable. It’s very overwhelming.”

Johansson said she cares for her daughter herself, from changing diapers to breast-feeding.

“The whole bit,” she said. “I’m nursing, and I love it, I love it. It’s the best way to get back in shape.”

- Scarlett Johansson on Being a New Mom: ‘It’s Wonderful and Exhausting’, ABCNews.com, December 10, 2014.



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.


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)


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