Shot themselves in the foot?

中国日报网 2018-01-16 12:02



Shot themselves in the foot?Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: Players believe they have “shot themselves in the foot” after failing to win their first two matches.

My comments:

In other words, the players admit they have made mistakes and thus made life difficult for themselves.

“Shot themselves in the foot” suggests the players believe the injury to be self-inflicted. Had they played a little bit better and not made stupid mistakes, they probably could’ve won one or both games.

Obviously, losing the first two matches to start a campaign isn’t ideal, to say the least.

Anyways, to shoot oneself in the foot is the American idiom to learn here. Literally, it means that one aims a shot gun at one’s own foot and pulls the trigger.

Needless to say, for something like that to happen it has to be by accident as no-one in his or her right mind will do it on purpose.

Except that soldiers did do it on purpose – to get themselves out of the battlefield. Michael Quinion, explaining the said expression in World Wide Words, writes:

I found a reference in a 1933 book, Death in the Woods and Other Stories by Sherwood Anderson. An American tells of his experiences as an aviator in the British Army in that war, in which he suffered a bad crash and was taken to hospital: “The fellow who had the bed next to mine had shot himself in the foot to avoid going into a battle. A lot of them did that, but why they picked on their own feet that way is beyond me. It’s a nasty place, full of small bones.” The technique has continued into recent times: hearings held in November 1969 into the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War were told that one soldier had “shot himself in the foot in order to be medivac-ed out of the area so that he would not have to participate in the slaughter.”

Soldiers’ shooting themselves in the foot to get out of wars serves as a painful testament to how terrible wars are.

Back to the expression itself. Since the wound is self-inflicted, metaphorically speaking, shooting oneself in the foot becomes synonymous with doing or saying something that causes you problems, especially unnecessary problems.

By that, I mean mistakes one makes or the stupid things they say can or could’ve been avoided.

But, being human, we are prone to doing that ailment, i.e. shooting ourselves in the foot from time to time.

And here, with no more ado, are media examples:

1. What if the major book publishers inadvertently shot themselves in the collective foot by raising ebook prices to protect their paper book business? And in the process, hurt their 2015 profitability compared to where things stood before the ebook price hikes?

Managing price elasticity over time and by product is one of the most difficult jobs of any marketer. It’s one thing if we are talking about what to price Tide detergent for this week at Walmart and Rite Aid and quite another when talking about the same product delivered in multiple formats, which is the case for books.

Before ebooks came on the scene, publishers were practicing a smart strategy based on the core discipline of customer segmentation. No matter what the product or service, customers break into three main buckets: avids (early adopters), mainstream, and laggards. This segmentation system is most relevant in technology adoption, as wonderfully detailed in Geoffrey Moore’s important work done in the 1990s. His books Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado are two of the most important marketing books we have to help guide our segmentation strategies.

The age-old publishing strategy, which was under control before the advent of ebooks, was a smart one where hardcovers, trade paperbacks, and mass market paperbacks (where warranted) were timed around customer segments for release. The avids need to be the first on the block to own whatever the passionate category may be for them, so for book avids, they will pay more for a hardcover, which is their only option at product launch using the time-tested strategy. Then the much larger mainstream segment comes onboard a year or so later with the trade paperback release, paying a price that seems appropriate to them. Lastly, along stumble the less important laggards, often driven by tie-in movies that encourage them to pick up the mass market special edition. Many laggards do not pay for their books at all but read them as pass-alongs. What they read (and when they read it) is far less important to them than for the other two segments.

- Have Publishers Shot Themselves in the Foot With Costly Ebooks?, January 19, 2016.

2. Aides for Donald Trump think the president “shot himself in the foot” by firing James Comey and ultimately triggering the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, the Daily Beast reports.

As the Washington Post reported Wednesday, that special counsel investigation has since expanded to include whether Trump committed obstruction of justice by ousting the former FBI director.

Close associates of Trump, including longtime confidante and Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, have floated the theory that the president is considering firing Mueller, who was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to oversee the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. According to the New York Times, Trump “thinks the possibility of being fired will focus [Mueller] on delivering what the president desires most: a blank public exoneration.”

“Whoever leaked [news of the obstruction investigation] was obviously reading that he was thinking about giving Mueller the boot,” an official told the Daily Beast. That official argued Trump “shot himself in the foot again with this cockamamie scheme to get Mueller to play ball.”

Another White House official told the Daily Beast it would “suicide” for Trump to get rid of the special counsel.

“I’d be insincere if I said it wasn’t a concern that the president would try to do it anyway,” the aide added.

Former United States attorney Barbara McQuade, who served under the Barack Obama administration, told the Daily Beast if Trump fired Mueller “and it could be shown that his purpose was to impede the investigation, it could be additional evidence of obstruction of justice.”

“We could then have a repeat of the Saturday Night Massacre or the Sally Yates Massacre,” she said.

Administration officials are reportedly trying to contain the fallout from the Washington Post’s report that the investigation has expanded to include possible obstruction of justice.

“Keep him away from Twitter, dear God, keep him away from Twitter,” one official told the Daily Beast.

“The president did this to himself,” that official added.

- White House aides think Trump ‘shot himself in the foot’ by firing Comey and triggering a special counsel,, June 14, 2017.

3. It could have been so simple, even when it didn’t seem like it.

The Washington Nationals could have locked up Dusty Baker before the season and avoided all of this. They could have done it in the middle of the season and saved some of the drama. Hell, they could’ve announced the morning after Game 5 of the NLDS that Baker’s tenure as manager was over, and at least saved some of this needless suspense.

Instead, they waited and waited. Maybe, you thought, they were waiting until after the World Series to announce the decision, that it had already been made, that the contract was signed. It certainly lulled me into a sense of certainty that Baker would return.

Nope. Instead, the Lerners and GM Mike Rizzo waited more than a week without even deciding for themselves, then letting Baker skip town before calling to let him know that he had been canned.

Suddenly, an offseason that should’ve been about shoring up the bullpen, adding a starter, and dealing with Bryce Harper’s contract, has turned into something else: A complete internal crisis that will suddenly define the next season.

The culprits here are unmistakably the principal owners, the Lerner family. Multiple outlets have stated that Rizzo wanted to bring Baker back long ago, and hoped to hammer out a contract as early as March. Hell, he basically confirmed that Baker would be back the next season ahead of the NLDS.

“We’re both confident that he’ll be back with us,” general manager Mike Rizzo said, as quoted by Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post.

What, in the name of all that is holy, could have possibly changed that? Did the Lerners, after seeing two mid-90s win seasons in a row, decide that Baker wasn’t gelling correctly with the club?

The official reasoning, supposedly, was that the team is no longer satisfied with just winning division championships, that the Nats are ready for an NLCS and World Series appearance.

And, yes, Baker failed to get them over this hump. But he made nearly all the right moves — up by one in an elimination game, who the hell else are you going to hand the ball to when Max Scherzer is in the bullpen? If he holds that lead, Baker is still wearing a Curly W.

However, it’s also quite possible that the Lerners simply didn’t even want to sit down at the negotiating table because they believed that Baker would ask for too much, and didn’t want the word to leak again that the Nats had another managerial contract that fell through because of the money.

And perhaps it was a baseball-only decision. But, with Baker—who accepted far below market value to join the Nats, perhaps hoping for a slight raise—and the Lerners—who were only willing to cough up the money to fix a glaring problem on their team in their bullpen when it had already lost the team more than a dozen games, who have always refused to spend at the manager slot—who would you give the benefit of the doubt?

We may never know the full story behind why Baker got the boot. But there’s no doubt that the decision will negatively affect the team.


The Nats shot themselves in the foot, their players in the knee, their fans in the stomach, and Dusty Baker in the heart in one fell swoop yesterday. It’ll be hard for them to ever make up for this or live this down, and the odds are that they won’t.

- The Washington Nationals just shot themselves in the foot by letting Dusty Baker go: What happens next?, October 21, 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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