Back in the day?

中国日报网 2018-01-19 11:41



Back in the day?Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, particularly “back in the day”: We’re gathering photos of restaurants you loved back in the day and wish we had back.

My comments:

They’re looking for photos of old restaurants that are no longer here. They were good, apparently, that’s why they wish to have them back. But, alas, they were closed a long time ago.

That’s what “back in the day” means, a long time ago.

Back in the old day, or days, that is. It is easier to understand if we are more specific. Back in the day, for example, when Elvis rocked and rolled and wowed the crowd. Back in the day when people made use of their fists, for instance, to settle political arguments – or pulled out a gun, for that matter. Back in the day, for another example, when everybody who was halfway literate had beautiful handwriting – some handwritten letters looked more pleasing to the eye than some of the best calligraphy on public display today.

However, “back in the day” stands alone and by itself. Without being specific, it is inferred that the speaker is talking about a time of the past, the long past. The speaker probably needs not be specific because nobody is able to remember distinctly anything that far back anyway.

Anyway, “back in the day” means back in the old days a long time ago. Way back in time.

In other words, when people say something was in rage “back in the day”, they are talking about something that happened 35 years ago rather than, say, last month.

All right. More media examples for us to get a good feel of the phrase – an American idiom – via context:

1. Somewhere back in the day, teachers must have taught us to include a comma after coordinating conjunctions used at the beginning of sentences, because many of us include them. But very often no comma is required. Actually, most of the time you can skip the comma after an opening coordinating conjunction.

Coordinating conjunctions are the FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. You can use them to begin sentences, but they are connectors; make sure you choose the one that makes sense for what you want to say. Make sure the sentence beginning with a coordinating conjunction links back to the previous sentence.

She kissed me passionately. And then she decked me.

Tommy told me he washed and put away the dishes. Yet he can’t even reach the sink.

Steffie didn’t want to see a movie or take a walk. Nor did she want to go out to dinner.

- Introduce Me with a Comma,, August 27, 2015.

2. Riggs Library at Georgetown University is one of the United States’ great old book shrines. Dating to 1898, Riggs has four floors of cast iron walkways laid out around a central light court. Sixteen columns divide the hall into smaller alcoves, and two spiral staircases connect walkways.

Riggs was designed by an architect named Paul J. Pelz, who had just finished drawing up blueprints of the Library of Congress. It’s located on the top floor of Healy Hall and has sweeping views down the Potomac River.

Construction of Georgetown’s library was financed by Elisha Francis Riggs, to commemorate his father George and his brother Thomas and the centennial of the university. Thomas was the force behind the Riggs family fortune. He made a fortune in banking (he ran the so-called “Bank of Presidents”) before turning to philanthropy.

Back in the day, Riggs Library boasted an impressive collection of storied old books. Contemporary writers marveled at the numerous first editions, 18th-century prayer books, Chinese dictionaries, and Renaissance-era Italian texts. This treasure trove was protected by “fire-proof” building materials: masonry walls, cast iron shelves, and terracotta tile floors.

Riggs was a functional library until the 1970s, when a larger library facility opened on campus. Today it is used mainly as an event space.

- Riggs Library Is a Shrine to Books Overlooking Washington, D.C.,, February 16, 2017.

3. Miguel “Rocky” Hernández, 71, was just one year old when he arrived on American soil. A Vietnam veteran, he was deported in June after more than 70 years in the US.

Hernández, a talented drummer who back in the day played on the Latin music circuit with Freddy Fender and Jorge Santana, was handed over to immigration after serving five years for drink driving violations and cloning DVDs. An Ice agent asked Hernández if he knew Spanish because he was going home. “I am home, I told him, but he just laughed.”

Hernández arrived in Tijuana late at night still wearing his prison sweats. “I had no money, I didn’t know where I was, what to do, or what to say,” he tells me, preferring to speak English.

Confused and disorientated, a passerby took pity and paid a taxi driver 60 pesos, just over $3, to take Hernández to the Scalabrini men’s shelter. Within a few weeks Hernández, a seasoned hustler, found work at a barber’s shop and rented this apartment, decorating the walls with Marilyn Monroe posters.

Things were looking up, when Hernández was attacked by muggers on his way to work and suffered a fractured hip. He needed emergency surgery but the surgeons at the public hospital were in Mexico City, treating the September earthquake victims.

He applied for humanitarian parole, requesting permission to return briefly to San Diego for free treatment at the veterans’ hospital. It was rejected.

Hernández spent a month in hospital in terrible pain, waiting for surgery. There are no official figures, but activists believe thousands of veterans like him have been deported in recent years.

“When I stood up and gave my oath of allegiance to the US, the army told me I was an American, and that’s what I’ve always believed. I had my social security number, driver’s license, a house, cars, a salon, so didn’t worry about citizenship. That was stupid I know, but it never crossed my mind that I’d end up in this situation.

“I’m over the initial shock and trying to move forward, but denying me access to the veterans’ hospital was hurtful, it was cruel.”

A couple of days later Hernández attends a Thanksgiving dinner for veterans and children from a nearby orphanage, hosted by two former marine corps chefs who’ve built a holiday home a few blocks from the beach. There’s plenty of food and the children are happy with the lopsided bouncy castle, but it’s a tough day for the vets, a reminder of what’s been taken away. “I’m trying not to dwell,” says Hernández, “but this is bittersweet.”

- This is what the hours after being deported look like, by Nina Lakhani,, December 12, 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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