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Hold a candle to

[ 2010-07-14 11:19]     字号 [] [] []  
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Hold a candle to

Reader’s question: I'm talking about Michael Jordan,Number 23,who played for the the Chicago Bulls. He set all sorts of records and won four world titles. Nobody can hold a candle to him. Could you explain “hold a candle to”?

My comments:

In apprenticeship of yesteryear, young apprentices were asked to run errands – do the little things – for the old master before they were good enough to be allowed to work on their own. And one of the little things they did apparently was hold the candle (show the light) for the master at work in the evening.

Therefore, figuratively speaking, if you hold a candle to someone, that someone is superior; if you can not even hold a candle to them, then there’s no way you can even compare with them.

In other words, they’re so much better than you.

In the above example, therefore, nobody “can hold a candle to him” means Jordan is deemed better than anyone else.

Still in other words, Air Jordan is in a class of his own. His Airness, as a matter of fact, won six championships for Chicago, not “four”.

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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.