Some eye rolls?

中国日报网 2016-10-21 13:39



Some eye rolls?Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: “We have to be honest; we’re expecting some eye rolls.” Some eye rolls?

My comments:

Apparently the speaker concedes that what they’re proposing will cause some disagreement, even disapproval.

In other words, upon hearing it, some people may raise their eye brows and roll their eyes.

When we hear something odd, jarring, shocking or disagreeable, or just plain boring, one of our reactions is that we look upward and roll our eyeball from side to side, and perhaps shrug our shoulders also.

This happens a lot during meetings. For instance, the speaker on the podium says something mildly shocking, and, if you observe closely, some people in the audience may roll their eyes or raise their eyebrows.

This reaction is automatic and the expression reveals either one’s surprise, boredom, contempt or disapproval, as the case may be.

Usually disapproval, I may add. If we hear something nice and agreeable, we smile instead.

Anyways, it’s safe to say that people roll their eyes, for example, when they hear something mildly shocking or annoying.

If you hear something really shocking, like, hearing Donald Trump saying something, anything about women, for instance, you do not roll your eyes but drop your jaw instead.

Yes, you let your lower jaw drop and stay that way, open mouthed and utterly in shock.

Like, how can someone asking to be President of the United States say something like that?


All right, here are media examples of eye rolls or, more commonly the verbal form, people rolling their eyes:

1. Exasperation is pervading the political body language in Washington these days. Republican leaders reacted to Barack Obama’s press conference Monday with “a joint eye-roll,” according to the Washington Post. The unproductive debt negotiations between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, as Politico notes, were marked by “lengthy Obama lectures and much eye-rolling.” When did rolling one’s eyes become a way to signal disapproval?

Just in the last few decades. In previous centuries, it often meant the opposite—a look of passion and lust. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, people have been “rolling their eyes” since at least the 15th century. In Shakespeare’s narrative poem The Rape of Lucrece, he describes the rapist Sextus Tarquinius as looking hungrily upon Lucrece’s bed and “rolling his greedy eyeballs in his head.” A passage in Milton’s Paradise Lost warns of tempting women who are made only for “the taste/ Of lustful appetence … to troll the tongue, and roll the eye.” In the 18th and 19th centuries, rolling one’s eyes could signal “delicious danger” along with flirtation and loving affection. But the meaning of the gesture was still diverse: Other times the rolling of the eyes was described as a sign of savage ferocity, such as in the wild eyes of a rampaging horse, and by the time of Uncle Tom’s Cabin you could roll your eyes even as you were being droll and deadpan.

Another citation from the OED suggests that by 1931 you could roll your eyes “lugubriously,” and in Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) Joe rolls his eyes “indifferently.” While this begins to approach today’s meaning, the old interpretation persisted at least as late as 1950, when Hank Penny’s 1950 song “Bloodshot Eyes” told of a fallen woman who would “roll those big brown eyes” to seduce a former flame. And some other meanings persisted, too: In Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are from 1963, the titular monsters “roll their terrible eyes.” (Another sort of eye roll, in which the eyes roll straight up and back into the head, is still used to signal a sort of orgasmic pleasure, such as after a good meal. It’s unclear if this looks anything like the eye rolls described by Shakespeare and Penny.)

But that same decade some people began rolling their eyes much like the politicians of today (and 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon). In Jim Thompson’s crime novel Pop. 1280 (1964), the narrator’s lover rolls her eyes at his excuses, saying “Oh, brother!” and “What a bull artist!” People seem to have really started rolling their eyes in the 1980s, and it was around that time that people began groaning about real eye-rollers. The New York Times language columnist William Safire traced the term to, coincidence or not, a previous discussion of budget deficits, prompted by Ronald Reagan’s defense spending.

- Oh, Please, by Forrest Wickman,, January 15, 2013.

2. Candidates rolled their eyes and threw plenty of punches on the GOP debate stage tonight.

The second Republican debate was filled with memorable lines and zingers ranging from quips to personal attacks by candidates -- many from frontrunner Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina.

“First of all, Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage,” Trump said. “He’s number 11 and has 1 percent in the polls and how he got up here there is far too many people anyway -- Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage!”

Paul shot back, calling Trump “sophomoric.”

“Do we want someone like that to be negotiating with Iran?,” he asked. “I think really there is a sophomoric quality that is entertaining about Mr. Trump...Would we not all be worried to have someone like that in charge of the nuclear arsenal?”

Trump shot back with another zinger.

“I never attacked him on his looks and believe me, there is plenty of subject matter there,” he said. “That I can tell you.”

Later, Trump went on the offensive against former New York Gov. George Pataki as a “failed governor” who “wouldn’t be elected dogcatcher.”

- Republican Presidential Debate: The Best Zingers From The Second Republican Debate,, September 16, 2015.

3. Give Tim Tebow credit: He’s not afraid to chase big things.

He’s not afraid to set big goals. He’s not afraid to put himself out there. He’s not afraid to fail.

We should all be more like Tim Tebow.

The former Heisman winner and NFL quarterback auditioned Tuesday for a bunch of major league teams in hopes of launching a career on the diamond. Yes, the odds are long, perhaps impossible. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort.

Whether born from an actual desire to play, or just a publicity stunt, Tebow’s tryout shows the value of taking risks, the value of always trying to get better. If it works, the reward is great. If it doesn’t, at least you gave it all you had. At least you know.

Too often we don’t try things because they seem too hard. We’re afraid it won’t work. We’re afraid of embarrassment. So the potential of a big payoff takes a back seat to our fears. But the truth is that we never really know how something will play out until we try.

We think we know how Tebow’s baseball career will go, given that he hasn’t played since high school, but we don’t. Monday night, it was reported than a respected and successful team in Venezuela has offered Tebow a contract to play there this winter. Should MLB teams pass on him, as most observers expect, Tebow might still get to play pro baseball.

Already, I’d say, his risk has paid off. He can give it a shot against tough competition and see how he stacks up. You never know.

Tebow’s generated a lot of laughs and a lot of eye rolls since he announced his plans to pursue baseball. So many people seem to want him to fail for entertainment value, to maintain some apparent understanding that we're not supposed to like Tim Tebow. Sure, he’s a nice guy, people say, but come on. He’s only here to entertain us through his shortcomings.

If he fails, so be it. We shouldn’t laugh. We shouldn’t take pleasure. At least he tried. It’s an old lesson, but it’s a valuable one.

- Why we should all want to be more like Tim Tebow, by Jason Foster, Sporting News, August 30, 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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