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Put it on the back burner

[ 2010-04-07 11:26]     字号 [] [] []  
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Put it on the back burner

Reader's question: But let's put it on the back burner for now. Could you explain “to put it on the back burner”?

My comments:

If you put something on the back burner, you want to tend to it later, NOT NOW.

NOW, you have to deal instead with matters that are more urgent - “burning” issues, if you will.

This term originates from cooking. If you’re cooking with two stoves (burners), the back burner refers to the one lighting a small fire, in contrast to the main stove always burning at full capacity.

After soup has been boiling for a moment on the main stove, for instance, you remove it and re-place it on the back burner (to keep it stewing or just to keep it warm) while you continue to prepare other dishes using the main stove. When all dishes are prepared, you turn off both burners… and set the table for a feast.

Metaphorically speaking, therefore, anything you elect to put on the back burner is less urgent, something NOT of immediate concern.

Direct elections, at the grassroots level at least, are not of immediate concern to many local governments. That’s why they’ve been put on the back burner – that is, postponed – like for ever.

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Go to Zhang Xin's column


About the author:

Zhang Xin has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.