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Pick up steam

[ 2010-05-12 10:31]     字号 [] [] []  
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Pick up steam

Reader’s question: The economy seems to be picking up steam.

Could you explain “to pick up stream”?

My comments:

Steam, not stream.

“Steam” is an anology back to the olden days when steam trains ruled the rail tracks – they’ve long been replaced by electric trains. Those steam trains were powered by steam locomotives, which give out a lot of hot air (steam) as the trains begin to chug along. As the trains speeded up, they let out more steam because the coal in the fire pit burned more brightly, turning more water into steam.

Hence the term picking up steam. When the economy “seems to be picking up steam”, it seems to be growing more rapidly. The global economy today as a whole seems to be doing just that, having freed itself from a two-year stagnation.

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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.