Better judgement?

中国日报网 2018-02-27 12:21



Better judgement?Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, particularly “better judgement”: Jack taunts and challenges Ralph to go up the mountain to search for the beast, which he does against his better judgement.

My comments:

Ralph knew it would be dangerous to go with Jack up the mountain in search of the beast. Yet, he went, unable to resist Jack’s taunts and challenges. Ralph knew he shouldn’t have gone.

Ralph’s decision to go is his actual judgement. That he shouldn’t have gone is, literally, “his better judgement”.

That’s what is implied here.

Anyways, “against one’s better judgement”, or judgment (American spelling) is the full phrase to learn. When people say they did something against their better judgment, they mean to say they shouldn’t have done it had they fully followed their head instead of the heart, so to speak. In other words, they more or less regret it now.

Let me give you an example. A few years ago, a friend of mine bought a 49-inch television for his dormitory and instantly regretted it. “I fell for its price,” he said afterward. “I wanted a 29-inch television but the 40-inch piece was on sale and they cost almost the same. I fell for the words of the saleswoman and quite impulsively bought the big one. Now, after setting it up in my room, which you know is only about 10 square meters in size, it looks enormously too large. In fact, it feels quite out of place.”

I visited his room quite a few times, one of two bedrooms of an apartment he shares with a colleague and understood exactly how he felt. The big screen was literally in your face.

The scene reminds me of an American cartoon I read somewhere recently showing a couple watching a Donald Trump speech on a huge television screen covering, like, three quarters of a wall. Trump’s full face (mouthing something, I don’t remember) is onscreen, and the couple, sitting opposite in a sofa, looked quite small in comparison.

The funny part, though, is the caption. If memory serves, the words (from the mouth of the husband) are:

“If this keeps up, perhaps we’ll want to have a smaller television.”

In sum, my friend bought the big telly against his better judgement.

Alright, here are more media examples to give you a better idea of how it is when people do something against their better judgement:

1. Watching the climber, you could tell that he was doing this against his better judgement. He inched his way up the rock face, trembling, tense, gripping tightly. Every couple of metres he would stop and fumble for several minutes, finding a nut or cam to place in a crevice or a sling to place over a protrusion. He then clipped a quickdraw caribiner onto the gear, and his climbing rope through the caribiner for safety, before he continued to climb up above this most recent piece of protection. He was never really sure, though, whether he had placed the gear right, because he had only been shown the mechanics of placing gear that morning.

Over eight metres above the ground, and around a metre above his last piece of protection, he fell. The force of his fall dislodged the cam, and then the next piece of gear, and then the next, and then he hit the ground with a thud.

A group of my friends saw this climber fall and the ambulance take him away, but I don't know how he fared in hospital. At best, it would have been a long and painful recovery process.

In the workplace, people sometimes make similar mistakes to that climber, and at times the result is a collision with reality that can be nearly as painful. People seek roles that are far beyond their current levels of experience and skill, and sometimes they get them. The result can be failure and a difficult ‘managing out’ process.

Ambition, achievement striving, and risk-taking are highly valued by our society, but they can come with a dark side. High achievers typically believe in setting themselves ambitious goals and working hard to achieve them, but how do you know when you’re pushing things too far?

- The Limits of Ambition, by Carl Beuke, December 9, 2011,

2. On more than one occasion, I’ve opened up an email on my MacBook, typed out an answer and then, against my better judgment, typed out four familiar words: “Sent from my iPhone.”

That’s right: I’ve manually added the brief disclaimer that smartphone makers automatically append to emails sent from our BlackBerrys, iPhones, Galaxy handsets and HTC phones. I’ve even caught myself purposefully sending emails from my iPhone while sitting at my computer — purely to get out of writing a lengthy, detailed response.

I’ve been embarrassed to admit the tactic (and still am), but a study highlighted this week by author and tech writer Clive Thompson suggests my deceitful behavior may be a perfectly rational insurance policy against seeming careless or incompetent in cases when I’m really just short on time or unwilling to make it. “Sent from my iPhone” is no longer just a pretentious sign-off (though it’s that, too). It’s acquired a more practical purpose.

The 19-character disclaimer, with its implications of movement, speed and on-the-fly response, not only excuses typos, but offers a free pass on including any sort of detail or depth to a message. The same devices we use to keep in touch with one another — and to make ourselves available at all times — are coming to our rescue when we want to avoid each other.

“People now see it as an excuse or cloak,” said Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, of the iPhone signature. “It’s definitely not only a means of communication, but it’s also a means of escape from richer, deeper and in-the-face communication.”

- Why I Include ‘Sent From My iPhone’ — Even When It’s Not, by Bianca Bosker,, August 28, 2013.

3. Jose Mourinho knew exactly what he was doing last Friday night when he dredged up match-fixing in relation to Antonio Conte .

Mourinho is a clever guy. He will know well that the Chelsea manager was, in fact, acquitted of all charges in relation to his alleged involvement in Italian football’s Calcio Scommese crisis.

But he wasn’t about to let the facts get in the way of a low blow.


It began innocuously enough, with Mourinho throwing a barb in a press conference at no one in particular. He referenced other managers behaving like “clowns” on the touchline leaving just enough wiggle room to avoid the accusation he had anyone specific in mind.

Was it Jurgen Klopp? Maybe. Pep Guardiola? Could be. Antonio Conte? Was it the man who picked up the pieces of Mourinho’s shattered Chelsea regime and made them champions? Was it the man who Mourinho reprimanded for his touchline behaviour – asking for more noise and more support – after Mourinho’s United were torn asunder in Stamford Bridge? You’re getting warmer.

Conte – probably against his better judgement – rose to it and in an undignified moment of his own suggested his rival could be suffering from “demenza senile ”. You don’t need to be an expert in Italian to figure out the translation of that one, with Conte believing that Mourinho would do well to examine his own touchline behaviour in the past.

Then came the A-Bomb. Following a humdrum victory against Derby County in the FA Cup, Mourinho alighted on the one issue guaranteed to wound Conte in retaliation.

The tribal football public nor a thirsty football media is capable of dealing properly with what Mourinho said. United fans will use it against Chelsea fans online going forward. Papers need to be sold and so more fuel will be added to the furnace.

In hindsight, Conte would have been better advised to stay clear of any response at all. Arguably, the best move Guardiola made against Mourinho during their time in charge of Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively, was to tell the assembled media that in the press room Mourinho was “the f*cking boss” and any victory won against him would come out on the field of play.

Mourinho is a dirty fighter and whether he wins or loses, he always seems to come out on top in front of the media. That’s what Conte ought to have learned by now.

- Desperate, lawless and lost - Mourinho showed true colours with Conte 'match-fixing' attack,, January 11, 2018.


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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