Ate his crow?

中国日报网 2015-06-12 10:40



Ate his crow?

Reader question:

Please explain “ate his crow” in this sentence: Mr. Reid has apologized and ate his crow.

My comments:

Mr. Reid apologized, yes, but he was unwilling to do so in the beginning.

That’s what we can more or less safely infer from “ate his crow”, which is a metaphor, meaning Mr. Reid didn’t have to eat any real crow meat.

Crow meat isn’t good to eat, like, at all.

Crow, you see, is a carnivore bird, i.e. a meat eater. As the meat of many carnivores tastes poor, crow meat tastes bad. Hence, by folklore, people are believed to hate to eat crow meat unless they have to, e.g. when they’re starving.

Figuratively speaking, if someone is forced to eat crow, it means they’re forced to admit to their mistake. The logic here is that it’s as difficult for one to admit one’s mistake as it is difficult for one to chew and swallow unsavory food.

And additional note, from Wikipedia, as to the origin of eating crow:

Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) used this concept as a central metaphor in his short story “The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes” (1885). Morrowbie Jukes, a European colonist in India, falls into a sand-pit from which he cannot escape. Another man, a native Indian, is also trapped there who catches wild crows and eats them, but Morrowbie in his pride declares, “I shall never eat crow!” After days of nothing to eat, his hunger and desperation finally force him to do what he swore he would never do: literally eat crow.

While whether the great Kipling coined the term is debatable, his story tells us exactly where to put “eat one’s crow” into use – well, metaphorically, in situations where one is forced to do so.

Here are media examples:

1. Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster rank as the top two best-known monsters in the world, but since its 1995 debut, El Chupacabra has made a Justin Bieber-like ascension to No. 3 on the charts. The relative newcomer to the monster world is the go-to culprit for weird livestock deaths and creates a massive media stir whenever it’s “sighted.” It even has a fan club on Facebook.

That could all end, now that Benjamin Radford, author of several books on monsters and paranormal phenomena, managing editor of the journal The Skeptical Inquirer and LiveScience columnist, has released what he says to be definitive proof that El Chupacabra is not real ; it’s not even a hoax, he said, but rather a leftover memory of a science- fiction film.

Stories of El Chupacabra first surfaced in March 1995 in Puerto Rico, Radford said, when dead, blood-drained goats began showing up (El Chupacabra translates to “goat sucker”). That August, a newspaper printed an eyewitness description of a bipedal creature, 4 to 5 feet tall with spikes down its back, long, thin arms and legs, and an alienlike oblong head with red or black eyes. That depiction became associated with El Chupacabra, and it reports of similar creatures began popping up throughout the Caribbean, in Latin America, Mexico and Florida.


The creature, Radford noticed, shared a strong resemblance to the alien/human hybrid in the 1995 sci-fi thriller “Species.” When he spoke to Tolentino, he asked her if the thing that she saw could have been inspired by the film. Indeed, she had seen the movie in the weeks prior to making her description.

“You can make a direct connection between the film hitting theaters, her seeing the creature in the film, seeing it in the street, making the report and entering the public conscious,” Radford said.

Soon after, reports of nearly identical creatures began appearing throughout Latin America. But these can be dismissed, Radford says, because they’re all based on Tolentino’s Hollywood-inspired monster.

“What I’ve tried to do is take the whole El Chupacabra enchilada and break it into small mysteries and then solve those mysteries,” Radford said. “There’s no place else for those mysteries to hide now. If I haven’t solved every piece of it, then I don’t know what I’m missing. It’s all there.”

“That said, if next month or next year somebody finds El Chupacabra that’s sucking blood from animals, I’m happy to eat my crow and add a chapter to the book.”

- El Chupacabra Mystery Solved: Case of Mistaken Identity, March 22, 2011.

2. Angry consumers have been fleeing big banks in droves and calling for change to Obama’s CARD act for some time now.

And with good reason: Last November, Chase and Bank of America ate their fair share of crow for rolling out $5 monthly debit fees, spurring a National Bank Transfer Day.

Plus just last week, stay-at-home parents petitioned the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to review a clause in the CARD making it hard for them to get credit.

But despite all this, one expert says the real reason our finances are headed South has little to do with demonic big banks and everything to do with us. Our spending habits are to blame, said John Ulzheimer of, and it’s on us to get them on track.

“A lot of people have denounced the credit lifestyle because they couldn’t handle the lifestyle,” Ulzheimer said in an interview.

- EXPERT: People Who Trash The Credit Lifestyle Are The Ones Who Can’t Handle It,, May 26, 2012.

3. Do you ever wonder why Congress hates President Obama?

When Obama was running for re-election, he defeated a GOP crook, Mitt Romney – who was so confident, he didn’t even prepare a concession speech. After his defeat, he said, “What went wrong?” If he had asked me, I would have told him, “You got your can kicked!”

House Speaker John Boehner once announced, “We are going to make (Obama) a one-term president.” But after Obama won a second term, Congress had to eat crow. Congress has been angrily fighting against everything the president is trying to do to make this country and all Americans’ lives better.

- LETTER: Republican Congress has been forced to eat crow, November 20, 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:陈丹妮)



















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