Hot water?

中国日报网 2015-03-24 12:11



Hot water?

Reader question:

Please explain “hot water” in the following sentence: A Baptist minister is in hot water after preaching a sermon that called the Ten Commandments sayings or promises rather than mandates. 

My comments:

I’m not religious, but even I know the Ten Commandments are mandates, not merely sayings or promises of a wise man.

I mean, as far as I know – because as far as I know, that’s really as far as I know. And I don’t know for sure, of course.

Anyways, by commandments, I mean you must do accordingly – follow the commandments closely and to a T. You have to do it. It’s not a choice.

That said, I think religious questions are best left to trouble religious people. Don’t you think? They’re more qualified to answer them – as well as having those troubles in the first place.

Asking me to answer such a question is like asking a blind man what it is like to light a candle in the dark.

And like a blind man, I know my answers will be neither here nor there because either way, I cannot see what the fuss is all about.

I think, in our example, the Baptist should be left alone unless he attempts something like trying to baptize a baby in hot water, and potentially hurt the child. In that case, there’d be real harm done.

Otherwise, the minister can say what he wants to say while preaching a sermon.

Now, if you’re religious, you’ll see that I’m really not qualified to bother myself with such a weighty religious matter because I simply don’t know what is important.

So I think we’d better stick to “hot water” the term itself.

Even linguistically I must confess my ignorance because I am sorry to say I have no way of knowing for sure as to where this phrase comes from originally.

One plausible theory I’ve found online points to the ancient folk practice of some people somewhere who used to ward off intrusive neighbours with hot water. You know, if some unwelcome guest comes to your house and you want to drive them away, you throw hot water at them – if, that is, you happen to have a basin of boiling water at hand.

Sound plausible? I very much doubt it on second thought, because cold water or even wash water may serve the purpose equally well.

Anyways, no more quibble here, though. One way or another, you don’t have to be dogmatic at all here (unlike in a situation with religion). Just remember: If you’re in metaphorical hot water, you’ve done something controversial, something bothersome or troubling. You, in short, find yourself in an uncomfortable position.

Ok, here are media examples of people who land in hot water:

1. Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren is in political hot water for her questionable claim of having Cherokee blood. For years, the Harvard law professor has reaped career “diversity” benefits by claiming to be 1/32 Cherokee.

Other than two recipes she offered in a 1984 cookbook, Pow Wow Chow, which she claimed to have been passed down to her through the Five Tribes families, Warren stated that she didn’t need to provide documentation of her 1/32 Cherokee ancestry because family “lore” backed her up.

It turns out Elizabeth Warren isn’t the only politician claiming to be part Cherokee. Barack Hussein Obama, the dog eater, also claims to be part Cherokee! Unlike Warren, however, Obama does not say what fraction of him is Cherokee.

Michael Patrick Leahy writes for, May 21, 2012, that in his 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father, Obama claims to be part Cherokee (see pages 12 and 13 of the 2004 paperback edition):

If asked, Toot [Obama’s maternal grandmother, Madelyne Payne Dunham] would turn her head in profile to show off her beaked nose, which, along with a pair of jet-black eyes, was offered as proof of Cherokee blood.

- Obama also claims to be part Cherokee,, May 21, 2012.

2. Walter Medlin has been referred to as the Howard Hughes of Osceola County.

The reclusive developer has made headlines for his multimillion-dollar Ferrari collection and decades-long battles with the government over taxes, which landed him a brief stint in federal prison.

Even a celebrity chimpanzee Medlin once owned — which starred beside David Letterman, Jay Leno and the cast of Baywatch — was at the center of a dispute in Central Florida.

And now, at 70 years old, the millionaire is once again in hot water with the Internal Revenue Service.

Federal prosecutors charged Medlin this week with tax evasion, and soon after, he signed a plea agreement admitting guilt.

Despite earning $7.5 million in 2003 from the sale of his interest in an Osceola County landfill, Medlin claimed he owed nothing in taxes that year, the plea agreement said.

An IRS investigation found Medlin used roughly $1 million of that money to pay delinquent tax obligations, spent $170,000 to buy a car, and bought a $255,000 home his son now occupies.

He faces up to five years in prison and will formally enter the plea before a judge at a later date.

- Reclusive Osceola Ferrari collector battling IRS again, Orlando Sentinel, November 8, 2013.

3. Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said that women are like tea bags: You never know how strong they are until you put them in hot water.

I have seen firsthand how perseverance helps people last and rise. My daughter is one particular woman whose grit comes to mind.

I have written before about my relationship with my daughter — our conversations and my hope for her as well as for the next generation of women. My focus had been on the future, as it should be with any proud dad. But recently, I have had time to reflect on what she is doing now and how she was able to overcome challenges that I believe would have caused most people, even me, to quit.

In early 2009, while I was deployed in Iraq, my daughter sent me an email: “I don’t think college is for me. I will be leaving Houston and perhaps moving to Georgia to work or attend community college.”

I was in shock and wanted to give her a good military, in-your-face motivational speech, but I knew, based on the tone of her note, that she felt defeated. I called her that night, and we talked about her suffering grades. We discussed how she will always encounter challenges and that she has to work through the turbulence until the ride smoothes out, which it normally does, I assured her.

I have long used this approach because, according to a study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, a father’s nurturing behavior has a positive impact through adulthood. The study further found that the father’s positive involvement leads to a daughter’s strong self-esteem, which may shield her from drug and alcohol use and many other risky behaviors.

Bottom line: A father’s involvement is a big predictor of his child’s success.

- A father’s influence makes a critical impact when daughters are in doubt, by Glennie Burks,, May 2, 2014.






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.


(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑:祝兴媛)




















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