Gut punch?

中国日报网 2017-07-07 11:16



Gut punch?Reader question:

Please explain “gut punch”, as in “a psychological gut punch to the middle class”.

My comments:

This means a hard blow psychologically to the middle class.

Psychologically because “gut punch” is not supposed to be taken literally here.

If economic stormy weather is forecast, for example, that there is to be stagnation or slowdown or even a recession, then that may be a collective gut punch to the middle class, i.e. the working class.


Well, when there is an economic crisis, businesses want to scale back and one of the things they tend to do is lay off workers, and your company may be one of the companies to do so.

And you may be one of them being laid off and so you’ll be out of work through no fault of your own.

Well, it may not happen. Not all companies scale back and lay off workers, of course and your company may not be amongst those affected. But the sheer possibility of that happening will be hurtful enough, won’t it?

Yes, of course. That’s why any prospect of a downturn constitutes a psychological blow to the middle class, who, unlike the rich who live off inheritance or the stock market or interests from money in the bank, cannot afford to lose their job. It’s their rice bowl. Families and children may go hungry. A sad prospect to be sure.

All right. Back to gut punch.

That literally refers to a punch to the gut or the stomach. To punch is to thrust a blow with a clenched fist and the gut area or our belly is usually tender and soft. If we receive a punch to our stomach, we may lose our breath momentarily, to say the least.

It could be much worse if the blow comes unexpectedly. Harry Houdini (1874-1926), the magician and escape artist, was believed by some to have died from, among other causes, an unexpected blow to the abdomen. Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), who wrote the famous Sherlock Holmes stories, was one of the people who seemed to have believed so. Doyle believed Houdini’s tricks were not mere illusions. He believed that Houdini did possess some supernatural powers. Or at least he strongly suspected thus.

Doyle detailed his theories and suspicions in The Edge of the Unknown. Read the book to find out all about it if you’re interested.

We’ve been digressing but the point is, the gut is our soft spot and many of us cannot afford a tenacious blow to that area, not if we’ve not been well trained for it and certainly not when the attack catches us unawares.

Metaphorically speaking, any attack that is strong and impactful can be likened to a gut punch.

Here are recent examples from the media:

1. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY13) gave a passionate speech which highlights what will befall Americans if the House/Trumpcare bill passes.

He called it a “gut punch to America.”

The representative from New York’s 13th District told Congress. “Mr. Speaker, I strongly oppose this bill. We all should. Protecting ACA is a top issue for my constituents. Constituents like Leslie who without the protections of the ACA would not have gotten the treatment for leukemia that she was diagnosed with at the age of 22. Leslie is now in remission thanks to Obamacare. For Leslie, the ACA protections, like essential health benefits, were a matter of life and death. This Republican bill would destroy those patient protections.”

Rep. Espaillat continued, “Under the ACA in my district, a 5% drop in uninsured rates. Subsidized based on income and region, not on age. Medicaid expansion covering 156,000 people will be lost.”

“The president promised not to cut Medicaid. This bill guts it by $880 billion. This bill is a gut punch to America,” the NY Congressman said.

“Pregnant women seeking health care kicked to the curb. Patients with pre-existing conditions, kicked to the curb. Senior citizens who will have to pay more for less, kicked to the curb. Only 24 million people, including 6.5 million Latinos, kicked to the curb.”

“We demand Republicans stop kicking to the curb, Americans!”

- Best Speech Today: ‘Trumpcare Is ‘Gut Punch To America’,, May 4, 2017.

2. FBI agents continued to reel Wednesday from Director James Comey’s unceremonious dismissal a day earlier, their surprise at the manner of his ouster coupled with questions about who will next lead the bureau.

Many agents working in field offices across the country learned about their director's firing in much the same way he did: from news reports that flashed on television screens and buzzed on phones.

They privately described a day afterward spent processing the news, swapping praise about their former boss, and grappling with angst that Comey wasn’t given a chance to notify employees. Many saw him as a strong and supportive leader even if some believed he at times set the bureau on the wrong path. And many did not want to see him go, especially in the midst of the bureau’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s campaign had ties to Russia’s meddling in the election.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that “countless” FBI employees had lost faith in Comey’s leadership. But the president of the FBI Agents Association, Thomas O'Connor, said he was known to be responsive to their concerns, and he called the firing a “gut punch.”

- Stunned FBI Agents Grapple With Comey Firing, Associated Press, May 10, 2017.

3. Pacers president Kevin Pritchard was clearly agitated at Paul George and the way things have gone down since last Friday. According to Pritchard, he hasn’t had any direct conversation with George since it was revealed he didn't want to play in Indiana any longer. George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, was the one who informed Pritchard about the NBA player’s decision, and it came as a shock to the team.

For me it was gut punch,” Pritchard said about George’s desire to leave. “It was a total gut punch because we had many conversations over the summer about players that we’d like to add, a little bit of a style we’d like to play. In my opinion, I was very inclusive with him and the message over the summer up until this weekend was, ‘Let’s build a winning team.’ When that came in that he wanted to look at another place, it was gut punch for us.

- Paul George gave Pacers a ‘gut punch’ with news about desired departure,, June 23, 2017.


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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