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Jump the gun

[ 2010-07-07 13:45]     字号 [] [] []  
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Jump the gun

Reader’s question: She was well known for jumping the gun. Could you explain “jump the gun”?

My comments:

She who jumps the gun does things before she is supposed to. For example, she may speak out of turn - before it’s her turn to speak– and be annoying to others.

“Jump the gun” is originally a sports term. In the 100- or 200-meter dash, for example, you’ll hear the chairperson (who indeed sometimes stands on a chair) call “On your marks”. That’s when the athletes are supposed to line up behind the starting line, getting ready to run. Then the chairperson shouts “Set!” That’s when the runners get into their starting “set” (posture). They’re ready to sprint any second now. Sure enough, within a second or two, sometimes less, the chairperson fires the “gun”, a sound signal upon which the athletes launch their sprint.

If you jump the gun, that means you are spotted springing up before hearing the sound from the gun. That is a foul. A second such offense usually gets you expelled from a race.

In short, jumping the gun is against the law in sport, either on the track or in the swimming pool.

Therefore, metaphorically speaking, she (using the example from the top) who jumps the gun does something before she’s supposed to.

And that, according to commonly accepted social etiquette, is inappropriate.

To say the least.

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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.