Stopped in her tracks?

中国日报网 2016-10-11 13:45



Reader question:

Please explain “stopped in her tracks” in this passage:

Last year’s finalist Garbiñe Muguruza was stopped in her tracks at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open by an in-form Jelena Jankovic, who downed the Spanish World No.3 in straight sets to reach the third round for the first time (Muguruza falls to Jankovic in Wuhan opener,, September 27, 2016).

My comments:

In a women’s tennis tournament in Wuhan last month, the Spanish No.3 Garbiñe Muguruza was upset by Jelena Jankovic, from Serbia.

In other words, Muguruza was defeated by Jankovic, which came as a bit of surprise because Muguruza was seeded third in the tournament, a higher seed than Jankovic.

The higher the seed, the farther one is expected to go in a tournament. Therefore, Muguruza’s early loss was considered an upset, a surprise.

Jankovic, tennis fans will know, was one time ranked first in the world. She certainly has the talent to beat Muguruza or anyone on a good day. But anyways, Muguruza is currently considered a better player today and therefore her loss to Jankovic is considered a surprise and that surprise element is what makes the expression of her being “stopped in her tracks” possible in the first place.

To be stopped in our tracks, you see, literally means we are stopped right in our walk – usually when something unexpected happens around us to distract our attention.

You’re walking down the street, for instance, when all of a sudden, in the corner of your eye, you notice a boy picking the pocket of an old lady.

Or you’re walking down the street when straight ahead of you in a short distance, a dog is allowed to poo in the middle of the sidewalk with its owner not making any attempt at collecting it up.

These are the type of situations that may, unsurprisingly and literally stop anyone in their tracks.

Metaphorically speaking, anything surprising or alarming that stops us from continuing on with whatever we’re doing can also be regarded as something that stops us in our tracks.

For instance, you’re talking with your friends while watching the American Presidential Debate on TV between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton when Trump says something rude or lewd or just plain stupid and you are forced to stop in midsentence, open mouthed and in shock.

Yeah, that’ll be a perfect example of Trump stopping you in your tracks.

Trump being Trump, he’s practically stopped everyone, I dare say, friends and foes alike, in their tracks in the past few months, weeks or even the past few days.

That is hardly surprising but remember, the surprise element is essential if you want to put the phrase “stopping someone in their tracks” in use.

And here are examples – of people being stopped in their tracks, made frozen and speechless by what they see or experience, unable to go on:

1. A bright, colorful light that streaked across the California sky, startling residents and leading to a flurry of calls to law enforcement, turned out to be an unarmed missile test-fired from a Navy submarine off the coast Saturday evening, officials said.

Kevin Stack was walking to dinner with his young son in northeastern Los Angeles when he was stopped in his tracks by what he thought was an especially intense light from a police helicopter -- except that it was completely silent.

“It intensified then shot across the dark sky, leaving a green trail,” said Stack, 41. “Then it fizzled and appeared like a dying dot on an old television screen.”

Stack’s 5-year-old son, Blackstone, was under no illusions about what he had just seen.

“It was an alien,” Blackstone said.

Not quite, said Cmdr. Ryan Perry, a Navy spokesman. Navy Strategic Systems Programs conducted a missile test at sea from the USS Kentucky, a ballistic missile submarine, Perry said in a statement.

- Not a UFO: Streaking light over California was U.S. Navy missile test,, November 8, 2015.

2. Nick Wiltgen, a passionate meteorologist and senior writer at, passed way in a tragic car accident on Sunday night. He was 39.

When my wife broke the horrible news, I was literally stunned and stopped in my tracks. We worked together at the Weather Channel for nearly 15 years. Nick was an extremely bright, very accomplished meteorologist. He was unique and he was funny, dedicated and sincere. Every now and then you encounter a truly special individual in your field — someone who stands out in the crowd.

Nick was one of those individuals.

- The weather community has suffered a stunning loss in the death of Nick Wiltgen, by Tom Moore,, January 27, 2016.

3. A statue of a woman covered with messages about human trafficking and forced prostitution has been installed in front of the central station in Copenhagen to draw attention to these issues.

The sculpture is chained to a fence on Vesterbrogade and many passers-by have stopped in their tracks to read about the horrors trafficked people experience.

An unknown artist behind the statue condemns the sexual exploitation of young girls and women and encourages people to stop buying girls for sex, so they wouldn’t be sold and abused.

At least 20.9 million children and adults are sold into commercial sexual services every year, according to one of the notes on the sculpture.

“Sex trafficking is a human rights violation,” it says.

“Women and girls make up 98 percent of the victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. They are promised employment as housekeepers. Instead, the traffickers rape them, lock them up and force them to have sex in brothels.”

- Woman in chains stops people in their tracks,, May 19, 2016.


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 编辑:丹妮)



















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