Run of the mill?

中国日报网 2018-06-26 11:07



Reader question:

Please explain “run of the mill type” in this sentence: The coffee here is average for what you would expect from a run-of-the-mill type of coffee place.

My comments:

A coffee shop of a run-of-the-mill type is ordinary, neither very good nor too bad, just common and commonplace, a shop you can find anyplace, everyplace.

Needless to say, the coffee on offer here is also of the run-of-the-mill type, just so-so, average, nothing special.

Oh, run of the mill. The mill refers to any factory that mass-produces something, cloths, bricks, steel sheets, etc.

The reason we understand run-of-the-mill as ordinary is because all mass-produced goods look exactly the same, one an exact copy of another. And you can always have them, have them any time, have as many of them as you like, as a matter of fact, so long as the mill is running.

Anything we can have at any amount and any time we want it, we tend not to value it. This may also add to the feeling that things of the run-of-the-mill type are not very good.

Well, they are not too bad, either. They’re just common and ordinary, not exceptional.

Got it?

All right, here are media examples of the idiom “run of the mill”, which is American in origin:

1. A never-before-seen strain of swine flu has turned killer in Mexico and is causing milder illness in the United States and elsewhere. While authorities say it’s not time to panic, they are taking steps to stem the spread and also urging people to pay close attention to the latest health warnings and take their own precautions.

“Individuals have a key role to play,” Dr. Richard Besser, acting chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday.

Here’s what you need to know:

Q: How do I protect myself and my family?

A: For now, take commonsense precautions. Cover your coughs and sneezes, with a tissue that you throw away or by sneezing into your elbow rather than your hand. Wash hands frequently; if soap and water aren’t available, hand gels can substitute. Stay home if you're sick and keep children home from school if they are.

Q: How easy is it to catch this virus?

A: Scientists don’t yet know if it takes fairly close or prolonged contact with someone who’s sick, or if it’s more easily spread. But in general, flu viruses spread through uncovered coughs and sneezes or -- and this is important -- by touching your mouth or nose with unwashed hands. Flu viruses can live on surfaces for several hours, like a doorknob just touched by someone who sneezed into his hand.


Q: How do I know if I should see a doctor? Maybe my symptoms are from something else -- like pollen?

A: Health authorities say if you live in places where swine flu cases have been confirmed, or you recently traveled to Mexico, and you have flulike symptoms, ask your doctor if you need treatment or to be tested. Allergies won't cause a fever. And run-of-the-mill stomach bugs won’t be accompanied by respiratory symptoms, notes Dr. Wayne Reynolds of Newport News, Va., spokesman for the American Academy of Family Physicians.

- What you need to know about swine flu,, April 29, 2009.

2. Editor, the Advocate:

I was having a run-of-the-mill day standing in line to be checked out at a local retail establishment. Glancing over to the register next to the one I was waiting on, I saw an individual with cash in hand appearing to be cutting in line. I began to quietly take offense with the gall of this person. It was then that the clerk made eye contact with this individual. In a low tone of voice, the gentleman handed over the cash, stating that he had been given the incorrect change in an amount in excess of $20. Then, he quietly exited the store.

As you might expect, I felt a bit embarrassed at having judged this man so quickly. I had witnessed an event that probably happens most every day but, sadly, goes unnoticed. Yes, there are many people who would have taken advantage of the honest mistake of another, but I have the feeling that there are just as many people who would have done the same thing this person did.

I hope our Victoria County District Attorney Steven Tyler will not take offense with me for identifying him as the person who performed this noble act.

Right on, Steven!

Mike Laza, Victoria

- District attorney returns money,, January 12, 2014.

3. Mars is having a bit of a dustup. The entire surface is currently smothered in a “planet-encircling” dust storm that began two weeks ago, and swelled into a global event that forced NASA to suspend operations for the Opportunity rover.

Mars is no stranger to dust storms, but this one isn’t a run-of-the-mill tempest. It’s far more gargantuan. These global storms occur only once every 5.5 years or so, swallowing up the entire planet in a cloud of red.

The dust storms on Mars work largely the same as they do on Earth. You have high winds that roll across the surface and move small grains forward, on the order a few hundred microns in size. These grains bounce up into the air, and once they’re just a few centimeters up the increased turbulence takes them higher and higher. Take that situation and watch it cascade into something abhorrently larger, and you have yourself a dust storm—capable of launching dust up to 20 kilometers in the air, covering up large swaths of land.

“The trick on Mars,” says Don Banfield, a planetary scientist at Cornell University, “is that the air density is only about one percent of what it is on Earth, because Mars has a very low atmospheric pressure. The winds will have to be faster to move the particles on Mars around, but it will come off as more or less the same force.” Those winds during these storms top off at 60 miles per hour, but due to a lack of atmosphere, they’ll end up feeling like just a refreshing breeze.”

- Weather got you down? The entire planet of Mars is buried in a dust storm right now,, June 22, 2018.


About the author:

Run of the mill?

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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