A white knuckle commute?

中国日报网 2015-06-05 11:02



A white knuckle commute?Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, particularly “white knuckle”: Snow and ice is leaving much of the country in a deep freeze making for a white-knuckle commute from Texas to Ohio.

My comments:

If you’re travelling to and fro between these two states, be extra careful because snowfall and freezing temperatures have made the roads icy, slippery and dangerous.

Whether you’re driving your own vehicle or via a commuter bus, you’ll probably find yourself holding onto the steering wheel or the seat bars fast.

So fast the knuckles of your hands will turn bloodless and appear white in color.

White in color due to a clenched fist or a concentrated effort to do so.

That’s how white knuckle originally from, from observing that people’s knuckles turn white in complexion when they clench their fist.

Figuratively speaking, well, Hitchcock murder mysteries are sometimes described as white knuckle films because they make you frightful and thrilled at the same time.

Talking about movies, run and gun films also are called white knuckle thrillers for the same reason, giving you thrills and make your heart pound and palms sweat.

Yes, sweaty palms. We Chinese often describe an experience as causing sweaty palms, which is very similar to what Americans feel in what they call a white knuckle situation.

Roller coaster rides, too, are often described as white knuckle rides, for obvious reasons. If you have ever taken a ride on the roller coaster, you’ll understand it right away.

For other examples, adventures into the Arctic or an exotic trip to a tropical island are also likely situations where people use “white knuckle” to describe the thrills and excitement these adventures may bring – as well as fear sometimes.

Alright, read media examples to make a firmer grasp of “white knuckle”:

1. To start with, it’s a bit of a “white knuckle experience” for any parent.

Taking the passenger seat when your teenager first gets behind the wheel of a car can be a stressful time.

Driving instructor Helen Knight, who has been running Knights Driving Academy with her husband Don for the past 19 years, is familiar with parents’ obvious anxiety over not being able to take control if needed.

As such, she said it helped for learners to have at least some professional lessons to get them off to a good start.

It’s at this time the young driver will pick up either good or bad driving habits – become a safe driver or one that could be a hazard on our roads.

While Queensland Transport has found learner drivers are unlikely to be prone to crashes, after going on to a provisional licence they are twice as likely to be involved in fatal crashes as drivers aged between 25-59.

- Driving experience, SunshineCoastDaily.com, November 10, 2008.

2. It is perhaps an unlikely theme for a blockbuster film in a country with a dire air safety record: a near miss in which a pilot steers a smoke-filled plane to safety.

In Nigeria, Last Flight to Abuja has become the first homegrown production to outsell Hollywood films this year. Crowds have been packing cinemas to see how the Nollywood fiction matches the reality of taking an internal flight in Africa's most populous country.

The film took a record-breaking 8m naira (£32,340) in its first week on release in Lagos. It has toppled this year’s box office hits The Amazing Spider-Man and Ice Age: Continental Drift, and is currently the second highest grossing film in west Africa after The Dark Knight Rises.

“Each time I fly in Nigeria it’s a nervy experience. All the shaking, the bumpy landings, the unexplained noises, as the plane starts off five hours after you’re supposed to have arrived at your destination,” said the director, Obi Emelonye. “The film was an accumulation of all those stories.”

The timing of the film’s release was inauspicious. It coincided with a Dana Air plane smashing into a Lagos slum, killing 163 people. Relatives of the dead encouraged the director not to cancel, to keep aviation safety in the spotlight.

“The timing was spooky because it was supposed to be an era behind us. I felt I had a social responsibility to show [improvements] we could make with just a little change of attitude, being proactive,” he said.

Audiences have given the fictional white-knuckle ride a positive reception.

- Nigerian blockbuster takes film-goers on a white-knuckle flight, Guardian.com, October 4, 2012.

3. Landing at Ecuador’s capital can be a white-knuckle affair. High altitude, a cramped runway and towering volcanos nearby make it one of Latin America's most challenging airports for pilots. And the constant roar of the planes torments those on the ground as well.

That will change on Feb. 19 as Quito moves its airport to an agricultural setting 12 miles (20 kilometers) northeast of the city, joining other cities that have moved — or tried to move — planes further from people.

Mariscal Sucre airport sat amid cornfields when it was christened in 1960. Over the years, Quito grew dense around it, turning the airfield into a notoriously nerve-racking neighbor, with planes booming in and out from 5:45 a.m. until 2 a.m. without rest.

“The racket of the planes sometimes woke us at dawn,” said Maria Davila, 40, who has lived two blocks from the runway since she was a child. “The windows of the house would rattle and it seemed they would shatter.”

- Ecuador capital’s noisy urban airport closing, AP, January 30, 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.

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑:陈丹妮)

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