Back into your shell?

中国日报网 2017-10-13 12:03



Back into your shell?Reader question:

Please explain “shell” in this sentence: Sometimes the need to make a big decision can send you scurrying back into your shell.

My comments:

Scurrying, first of all, means you’re back into your shell swiftly, i.e. in a hurry.

One’s “shell”, on the other hand, is any place one feels safe, either one’s home or any place that makes one feel that one’s privacy is protected, where they feel safe and shielded from danger.

Figuratively speaking, of course, as originally, “shell” refers to the shell carried by a turtle or snail or a hermit crab. Obviously the idea of humans getting into their shell is inspired by many a various type of such animals in the wild – from humans observing animal behavior.

As you know, the turtle, snail and hermit crab and other like and like animals, they all shrink into their hard shell when they see or feel any slight sign of danger. The shell, for them, is where they’re out of harm’s way.

Similarly, for us humans, our metaphorical shell is where we feel safe, our comfort zone, so to speak.

Back to our example, that “the need to make a big decision can send you scurrying back into your shell” means sometimes, we’re not as decisive as we ought to be, to say the least. We’re afraid of making decisions for fear of making irreparable mistakes, especially when we’re faced with a big decision.

Such as?

Such as, for example, whether or not to join the army immediately after school, or get married and have children first, or run for public office after muddling through in business for many years.

Daunted by such potentially life-changing decisions, sometimes we shrink into our collective shell in the same way a turtle or snail or hermit crab withdraws into its shell.

Shrinking into one’s shell may help for the moment. After a while, sooner or later, a decision has to be made as the said turtle, snail or crab has to eventually venture out for, say, food if not for leisure and pleasure.

Oh, well, that’s irrelevant for our current discussion. For now, let’s examine examples of people who crawl back into their shells (either due to shyness or because of embarrassment, shame, guilt or fear, lack of courage or some other reason):

1. A driver who accidentally ran down and killed a great grandmother after revving her car in frustration at two pedestrians dawdling across a road has been jailed.

Natalie Foulser, a 21-year old artist, pressed her foot on the accelerator and clutch to make her engine roar in a bid to force the pair to walk faster over a pedestrian crossing.

But as she carried on driving Foulser stared at the pedestrians and while distracted ran over 75-year old Averil Monks who was still crossing the road.

Mrs Monks a retired hospital nursing sister and member of the local Townswomen’s Guild suffered fatal injuries and died at the scene.

Moments after the impact Foulser was seen in floods of tears and hysterics at the roadside saying: “I want my dad - I can’t believe I’ve just killed someone.”

She told one onlooker: “Two kids were messing about around the junction. I revved my engine to scare them because they were messing about.”

Tests showed she was travelling at 35mph at the time of impact on the 30mph Preston New Road, at Marton, near Blackpool, Lancashire.

Mrs Monk’s widower George, 76, was left so inconsolable by his wife’s death he refused to sleep in their bedroom and died in August.


In mitigation defence counsel Wayne Jackson said: “This is a momentary lapse of judgment, by somebody who is new to driving. The two pedestrians had hidden Mrs Monks from view beyond the crossing.

“My client has demonstrated genuine and substantial remorse and has been significantly traumatised by what took place. She has apologised every day in her head. She was a talented artist, described in testimonials as gifted, but humble.

“People say that since the accident, she has become a changed person and retreated into her shell. It’s quite clear the devastating effect this has had on the living as well and that is something she will have to live with for the rest of her life.”

- Driver who revved at pedestrians in frustration accidentally killed great grandmother,, November 11, 2013.

2. NORTH Melbourne champion Brent Harvey has questioned the Kangaroos’ leadership, after five close losses that have left the club languishing at the bottom of the ladder.

Harvey intimated the latest loss to Fremantle had crystallised a pattern of behaviour, whereby Brad Scott’s men were vulnerable to being overrun, despite often having a healthy lead at three-quarter time.

The AFL games record holder insisted the issue wasn’t fitness related, instead saying the players — including the club’s leaders — had a propensity to “go into their shells” when the heat was on.

Moreover, Harvey emphasised the significance of the loss of Drew Petrie, the club’s “go to man” to swing back into defence late in a close match.

“I look at our leadership group and I think we’ve got fantastic leaders,” Harvey told RSN.

“But under the pressure, when you’re on the field, I think you can go back into your shell and I think some of our leaders do that, especially when you’re tired and you’re not thinking straight.

“The thing that I’m seeing — and it happened a little bit last year as well — we play free football. Kangaroos play free footy and they go quite well.

“Then just as the game gets a little tighter, old habits (creep in). They kick the ball down the line, they take the 45, they don’t go on after the handball receive.

“They go back into their shell. And that’s when teams will get a run on.”

- North Melbourne champion Brent Harvey has questioned the Kangaroos’ leadership, after five close losses,, April 28, 2017.

3. Paul Merson believes Manchester United are a better side without Zlatan Ibrahimovic and are more likely to win the Premier League without him.

The Swede, who signed a one-year deal with United on Thursday, scored 28 goals last season in all competitions, before his initial one-year deal came to an end.

But Merson believes United are a different side this season, particularly with new striker Romelu Lukaku, and insists Ibrahimovic slowed things down in the final third for Jose Mourinho’s side.

Merson said on The Debate: “This man is a legend, I don’t use that word loosely, he’s an absolute legend, he’s won titles in seven different countries, you don’t do that by luck. But as time moves on now, Manchester United are a better team without him in it, and they’ve got a better chance of winning the Premier League without him.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive fan of this lad over the years, I think he’s been phenomenal.

“People said he was great last year, scored 28 goals, but Manchester United never looked like winning the Premier League last year.

“You look at them now, with him out of the team, you’ve got Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford going forward, you’ve got Henrikh Mkhitaryan putting balls through the eye of a needle. They’re playing 100mph, and so far nobody can live with them.

“That wasn’t them last season, they were too slow. Le Tiss and I have played No 10, and you need pace up front [in front of you], and if you haven’t got pace, it’s pointless playing a No 10, because there’s not a lot you can do."

Ibrahimovic is still recovering from a serious knee injury, which cut short a superb debut season at Old Trafford in April.

The 35-year-old has posted regular, positive bulletins on his progress, and United have seen enough to sign him up until the end of the season.

But Merson also suggested that Ibrahimovic’s return in the winter could have an adverse impact on Lukaku, who has hit the ground running at Old Trafford. Merson fears the Belgium international could “go into his shell” if he suffers a slight dip in form and is replaced by Ibrahimovic.

“Lukaku is top man now, you can see it on the pitch. That’s going to change! He’s got a big presence, Ibrahimovic, and he hasn’t gone to United to sit on the bench.

“If Lukaku goes a couple games without scoring, the fans will be cheering Zlatan’s name, and Lukaku could go into his shell, and we saw that last season in big football matches for Everton, he went into his shell.”

- Man Utd better without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Merson says on The Debate,, August 27, 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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