Cut her to the quick?

中国日报网 2016-12-23 13:04



Cut her to the quick?Reader question:

Please explain “cut her to the quick” in this sentence: The disloyalty of some of her fans – with their taunts and jeers – cut her to the quick.

My comments:

Their taunts and jeers hit her really hard, in other words.

Her fans used to be nice, it seems. This sort of disloyal behavior never happened before and so it hurts her really bad.

Quick, you see, is slang for the flesh under our fingernails. The nail, as we know, is hardened and rough, hence insensible. In contrast, the flesh underneath the nail is so tender and sensitive that if the nail is pierced, it leads to extreme excruciating pain.

Have you heard of the expression the quick and the dead, meaning all people, both the living and the dead? Well, in “cutting to the quick”, the quick refers to the living, sensitive part (while the nail represents part that’s dead or numb).

Anyways, if you’ve ever cut your fingernail while chopping carrots in the kitchen, which I’m sorry to say I actually did, you’ll know exactly what it feels to be cut to the quick.

Don’t try it.

All right. Well, metaphorically speaking, when the fans demonstrate their disapproval with taunts and jeers, or sneers and insults and the like, their disloyalty gives the artist tremendous pain emotionally. And the pain is similar to being cut through one’s nail.

In similar expressions, we also sometimes hear people say, to use the cutting knife again, such and such an event cuts them to the bone, i.e. very deeply or it cuts them to the core, or the innermost part of their being, their heart and soul.


Great, here are a few good media examples:

1. “As I said, my grandfather and my father were doctors, and when I was growing up I was well aware that my father hoped I would follow in his footsteps, just as he had followed in his father’s footsteps. He never said so, but it was perfectly obvious to me and to everybody else that that was what he wanted. I loved my father, and I wanted him to think well of me, but I knew from the time I was a little boy and fainted at the sight of blood when I happened to see our cook wring the neck of a chicken that I was going to be a disappointment to him, because I really couldn’t stand the idea of being a doctor; I kept it to myself, but that was the last thing in the world I wanted to be. Not that I had anything else in mind. The truth is, I wasn’t much good at anything—at home or at school or at play. To begin with, I was undersized; I was a runt, a shrimp, a peanut, a half-pint, a tadpole. My nickname, when anybody thought to use it, was Pee Wee. Also, I was what my father called a catarrhal child—my nose ran constantly. Usually, when I was supposed to be paying attention to something, I was busy blowing my nose. Also, I was just generally inept. Not long ago, looking up something in the unabridged dictionary, I came across a word that sums up the way I was then, and, for that matter, the way I am now—‘ambisinistrous,’ or left-handed in both hands. My father didn’t know what to make of me, and I sometimes caught him looking at me with a thoughtful expression on his face.”

Gould stood up and took off his lopsided glasses and peered desperately at the counterman, who was evidently putting off starting on Gould’s order until he had attended to everyone else in the diner, including some people who had come in after we had sat down, but the counterman deliberately ignored him and would not let him catch his eye.

“Anyhow,” Gould went on, sitting back down resignedly, “when I was around thirteen, a couple of things happened that showed me pretty clearly where I stood in the world. At school, we used to do a lot of marching two by two. We’d march into assembly two by two, and we’d march out to recess two by two. I could never keep in step, so they used to put me on the end of the line and I’d bring up the rear, marching by myself. This particular day, I had been kept in after school, and the teacher had let me go to the library room to pick out a book to read, and I was alone in there and out of sight, squatting down at a bookcase in the back of the room trying to decide between two books, when the principal of the school, who was a man, came in with one of the men teachers, the math teacher. They each dumped some books down on the desk, and then they stood there a few moments, talking about one thing and another, and all of a sudden I heard the principal say, ‘Did you notice the Gould boy today?’ The math teacher said something I didn’t catch, and then the principal said, ‘The disgusting little bastard can’t even keep in step with himself.’ The math teacher laughed and said something else I didn’t catch, and then they went on out.

“Now, it so happened my father was on the school board and took a great interest in the school, and he and the principal saw quite a lot of each other. They were really very good friends; the principal and his wife used to come to our house for dinner, and my father and mother used to go to their house for dinner. Consequently, I was deeply shocked by the principal’s remark. It hurt to overhear myself being called a disgusting little bastard, but it was the disrespect to my father that hurt the most. ‘The Gould boy’! That brought my father into it. If he had just said ‘Joseph Gould,’ it wouldn’t’ve been so bad. It would’ve confined it to me. I felt that the principal had insulted my father. I felt that he had betrayed him. At the very least, he had made fun of him behind his back. In some strange way, it made me feel closer to my father than I had ever felt before, and it made me feel sorry for him—it made me want to make it up to him. So that night, after supper, I went into the parlor, where he was sitting reading, and I said to him, ‘Father, I’ve been doing some thinking lately about what I’d like to be, and I’ve decided I’d like to study medicine and be a surgeon.’ I thought it would please him twice as much if I said I wanted to be a surgeon. ‘That’ll be the day,’ my father said. ‘If you did become a surgeon, and if you performed operations the way you do everything else, when you got through with a patient you’d have his insides so balled up you’d have his heart hanging upside down and his liver turned around backward and his intestines wound around his lungs and his bladder joined on to his windpipe, and you’d have him walking on his hands and breathing through his behind and making water out of his left ear.’ ”

Gould sighed, and a look of intense sadness passed over his face. “I held that remark against my father for a long time,” he said. “Every once in a while, through the years, I’d remember it, and it would cut me to the quick. Then, years and years later, long after I had left home and long after my father had died, I was walking along the street one night here in New York and happened to think of it, and it must’ve been the first time I had ever thought of it objectively, for I suddenly burst out laughing.” - JOE GOULD’S SECRET—I, The New Yorker, September 19, 1964 issue.

2. SIX years ago, in a fit of pique, Sir Richard Branson tore up the fax announcing Camelot’s successful lottery bid. “I’ve lost the chance to do the most important thing in my life,” he declared.

For a man unaccustomed to rejection, it cut him to the quick. His image had taken a knock, a very public one. Sir Richard had seemed unassailable, the man-of-the-people entrepreneur with the Midas touch; the toothy, trustworthy, woolly-pully-clad businessman who just could not help but make money.

For all the melodrama of his response to the failure of his lottery bid, he was still, according to Forbes Magazine, a billionaire, the third richest in Britain and head of a labyrinthine network of some 200 companies. But it is a trait of this disarmingly charming but highly shrewd businessman to take on those he feels have done him down.

British Airways discovered that in the High Court as did GTech, the company providing Camelot with its hi-tech lottery system, when a libel jury decided Guy Snowden, its disgraced director, had indeed tried to bribe the Virgin boss. Sir Richard had been preparing Camelot’s downfall for some time.

When his knighthood was announced in the Millennium Honours list, he said: “As a knight, all I need is a horse to topple Camelot.” Yesterday, it seemed, he’d all but done it. Sir Richard, who turned 50 in July, claims that his lottery aspirations began in Co Kildare in 1989 when he was impressed with a sports hall built from Irish sweepstake money. Five years later, it was a reality although not for him personally.

Yesterday’s victory is the ultimate endorsement for him and for his image as Britain’s most affable, charity-minded businessman. It’s another gong awarded by the Establishment to a knight of the realm who shares Christmas lunch with Tony Blair and his family while holidaying in the Seychelles.

Sir Richard’s credibility is such that he was once drafted in by the Tories to solve the litter problem and, more recently, was asked by the present government for advice on making the health service more user-friendly. He constantly features in polls as the boss most workers would like to have, the most popular choice for London Mayor, the entrepreneur most schoolboys want to emulate.

- Victory for the tycoon in a woolly pully,, August 24, 2000.

3. So how can you manage insecurity to your advantage? Well, just because you’re feeling it doesn’t mean the whole world needs to know. So, be strategic in determining how much you are going to share about what you’re feeling, and with whom.

And knowing that many people will see an expression of insecurity as a sign of weakness, you may, sometimes, have to act with greater confidence than you are actually feeling. This will mean, for example, adopting a less tentative linguistic style, reducing the number of qualifiers you use, being more forceful in your voice tone and making eye contact.

Practice self-talk. If you find yourself making negative statements about yourself, monitor them, write them down and reframe them in a positive way.

And try to avoid overinterpreting or making a catastrophe out of things. If your boss has some critical comments about your last report, it doesn’t mean that he or she considers all of your work bad, that you’ll never write another good report or that you’re going to be fired.

If you have too great a need for approval, learn to deal with a lack of it so that it doesn’t cut you to the quick.

So if you’re insecure about being insecure, relax -- but not too much. Let your insecurity give you the edge.

- Insecurity -- in all its painfully needy ways -- can be strength, by Barbara Moses, Globe and Mail, March 16, 2007.


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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