In "lockstep"?

中国日报网 2015-07-10 13:37




Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, particularly "lockstep": Through two matches, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are in "lockstep", making their probable quarterfinal showdown that much more intriguing.

My comments:

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are two of the top tennis players in the world, Djokovic being the younger and currently the more dominant one.

In our example, Djokovic won his first two matches at the French Open last month; Nadal, too, won his.

What's more, the two won in the same fashion, both easily – which is why they are said to have been in "lockstep".

If they kept winning, they would meet in the quarterfinals, as they were seeded to meet in that round. And since they were both on form, playing very well, it was hard to say who would win their head-to-head match.

Which is what makes their quarterfinal showdown much more interesting, or "intriguing".

Djokovic, as it turned out, won that match and, in the process, ended Nadal’s 39-match winning streak at the French Open.

That was a great confidence booster for Djokovic, who is not known as a clay specialist. For Nadal, it means grand slam titles are harder and harder to get as the nine-time French Open champion gets older and more injury prone.

But, that is all neither here or there as, here, we are to deal mainly with the concept of "lockstep".

Lockstep, or lock step, is a term originally describing the way soldiers march in formation, you know, they way they raise each leg and arm in unison.

The soldiers' steps are so uniform that it is as if their legs are "locked" together.

There are no real "locks" involved, of course. However, the "lock" in lockstep or lock stepping is real. In American prisons in the early days, prisoners were sometimes chained together at the ankles, both to prevent them from escape and as a form of punishment. And when those prisoners walked, they walked in lock step, literally.

Anyways, whenever two people are said to walk in lockstep, metaphorically it means they share the same ideas and are in agreement.

They're in total agreement, as a matter of fact.

In Chinese parley, we sometimes say they wear the same pair of pants.

It's not always a compliment, but that's how it is with people walking in lockstep. Those steps are usually temporary and often awkward, as prisoners' steps are when they walk, or rather shuffle along lockstep in heavy chains.

Okay, here are more media examples of lockstep in use:

1. Mr Obama said Iran was "feeling the pinch" of ever tougher sanctions imposed by the international community, and dismissed concerns that Tehran could retaliate by striking US soil.

"My number one priority continues to be the security of the United States. But also, the security of Israel. And we’re going to make sure that we work in lockstep, as we proceed to try to solve this – hopefully diplomatically,” he said.

"I don’t think that Israel has made a decision on what they need to do," Mr Obama said during a pre-Super Bowl interview with NBC television.

He reiterated that the United States has removed no option from consideration in dealing with Iran - an allusion to military intervention - but emphasized that the United States wants a diplomatic solution built around a world coalition.

- Barack Obama says US and Israel 'in lockstep' on Iran,, February 6, 2012.

2. National Log Cabin officials pointed to changes in individual Republicans' stances on same-sex marriage.

"Republicans no longer walk in lockstep on the issue of marriage equality," Angelo, who identifies as a conservative gay, said in an email. "We now have sitting Republicans in both the United States House and the Senate who have stated their support of marriage equality..."

Ohio Senator Rob Portman came out in favor of same-sex marriage in late March, becoming the first sitting Republican senator to do so. He was later joined by Illinois Senator Mark Kirk.

"Now is the time to push the Republican Party toward the right side of history,” Angelo said in the relaunch statement.

- Log Cabin GOP group announces relaunch effort,, May 9, 2013.

3. Wounded by the lukewarm reception the administration got from the National Football League and Major League Baseball when it asked them to help sell the public on all things wonderful about "Obamacare," President Obama has announced that America’s librarians will step into the void.

Let me add, they will do so enthusiastically.

On June 26, I flew to Chicago for the annual American Library Association conference, a seemingly innocent gathering of thousands of library professionals.

As a veteran of many rousing political conferences, I expected a relatively quiet four days, showcasing Independent Institute books, such as John C. Goodman's recently published "Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis." I was unprepared for the floundering health care law to become central to the agenda.

On the third day of conference, however, it was announced that the American Library Association planned to partner with the White House to tout the benefits of Obamacare. As Fox News reported on July 1, “Up to 17,000 U.S. libraries will be part of the effort to spread the word about the health care law, while giving the public access to their computers. The government-librarian team-up is one of a number of partnerships—some more controversial than others—that the administration is trying to build in order to promote the law ahead of an Oct. 1 kick-off.”

The library association announcement came as a surprise to many of the conference attendees, but for many if not most, it must have been a pleasant surprise.

For example, several panel discussions included intense, uninformed diatribes against the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Heritage Foundation, and libraries’ responsibility to counter their influence. One of the conference’s keynote speakers angrily called on libraries to lead the charge against the NRA’s evil agenda. The following day, a group of librarians from both public and private institutions brainstormed about how library computers could be rigged to censor or possibly omit information. As one librarian irritably recounted, she was directed by Google to a “horrendous” Heritage Foundation study challenging global warming theory. “We know [such studies] to be complete junk and need to figure out how to keep people from reading such despicable material," she resolved.

These statements, not surprisingly, came after the same group spent the first half of the session lamenting that Ward Churchill—the former University of Colorado ethnic-studies professor who claimed that the United States deserved the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 because of "ongoing genocidal American imperialism"—was not asked to return to the classroom. It seems the principle of academic freedom is only laudable when everyone agrees that the left is right. Now, the left is right on Obamacare and America's librarians are in lockstep with the mission to resuscitate public support for the limping legislation.

- The Nation's Librarians Are All In to Support Obamacare, by Lindsay M. Boyd,, July 12, 2013.



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:杜娟)

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